Film Reviews

Pan's Labyrinth Guillermo Del Toro

Rating - 9/10

First of all, let me say that I'm a person that's not easily impressed. The eternal pessimist in me tends to pick the bones out of everything just to find one minor flaw that will brings the whole thing toppling down. Sometimes though, certain movies can leave you spellbound and that's when you just have to hold your hands up and marvel at what's put in front of you. Guillermo Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth is such a movie. Introduced by Del Toro at this years Cannes Film Festival as his sister movie to The Devil's Backbone, the film lost out narrowly to eventual winner Ken Loach's The Wind That Shakes The Barley. When the Oscars come around early in 2007 it may be a different story. But everyone knows that award ceremonies are an utter nonsense anyway, media hyped back-slapping, self-congratulatory champagne swilling coke sniffing....i digress of course.

At once tender and brutal, beautiful and gruesome, this is a fairy story wrapped in the horror of reality. Through some inspiring panning techniques and jump shots, Del Toro brilliantly fuses the mystical underground world of fairies, giant toads and deformed monsters with the even more terrifying world of war, death and greed on the surface of the land, all through the innocent eyes of the young child, Ofelia (Ivana Baquero),caught up in both worlds. Set in 1943 during the rise of fascism in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, Ofelia and her pregnant mother go to live with her newly adopted father, a Spanish war captain, in rural Northern Spain as his army tries to crush a rebellion hiding out in the nearby forests. Ofelia, escaping the wrath of her new stepfather, soon discovers a hidden overgrown ancient underworld in the back garden (as you do).

Cinematographically, at times Pan's Labyrinth puts Lord Of The Rings to shame. A scene where the Captain is sewing stitches into his slashed face needs to be seen a few times until you can realise how it has been done with such detail. Peformances from Ivana Baquero and in particular Sergi Lopez as the fearsome Captain Vidal add more gravitas, while the musical score by Javier Navarrete is akin to Danny Elfman's haunting original music for Edward Scissorhands. Visually and musically stunning, backed up by a well-rounded plotline, this is a film that Tim Burton himself would be proud of, even envious of.

Just don't think you are going to see a nice little fairy story for the holiday season, or a great war epic. Actually, DO think that. In truth it is so much more than both.