Pans Labyrinth is a twisted fantasy created by Guillermo del Toro, a Mexican film maker. It was made in 2006 and was set in the aftermath of the Spanish civil war, the story details the journey of an imaginative young girl named “Ofelia” and her mothers remarriage to a cruel sadistic army captain. When I first watched the film I thought it was a fairy tale designed to show a young girl being rescued from her life by an underworld king who happened to be her father, but on second glance it seems it could be a story of her over active imagination trying to block out the horrors around her by creating a fantasy story to make her impending doom less painful. The story involved Ofelia moving to the Spanish countryside with her mother who is about to give birth to the Captains child, into the midst of a battle between the Captain and his men, with the Guerilla’s. During her time there it becomes apparent the captain cares not for Ofelia, or her mother to an extent he is consumed by his longing for a son and heir to carry on his family name. This is proved when he tells the doctor, if he has to choose then he must save the baby and not his wife. Whilst there, Ofelia ventures into an ancient stone labyrinth attached to the mill they are residing in, where she meets a mystical creature, a faun named Pan. I found this character rather frightening, he was difficult to read and although he made promises to help Ofelia, because he believed her to be the lost underworld princess “Moanna” I was never sure of his true intentions. He set Ofelia 3 life threatening tasks to complete before the moon was full, to ensure her “essence” was in tact so she could return to the underground kingdom to her father. These tasks, the visual effects to create them were astounding, especially the giant frog in the tree roots, when he deflated and all the goo came out it was disgusting, but the effects were very well done. Throughout the film there was a lot of gore, whether it be in the fantasy like scenes with the faun and the various tasks Ofelia faced but also in scenes depicting the cruelty of the captain and his men. There was clearly no censoring in this film, I didn’t expect to see someone’s face caved in with a bottle, or a leg chopped off, or Ofelias mother in grim bleeding childbirth, so this film crossed a lot of boundaries which I hadn’t seen before in a fantasy film. I find myself comparing it to another film, called “The labyrinth” with David Bowie, which includes fantasy and a labyrinth and a young girl trying to escape her home life, but shown in a much more light hearted way that is much less frightening to watch. Pan’s Labyrinth, makes you feel very uneasy and jumpy throughout, well it did for me and the creatures created are horrifying, especially the strange creature that eats children, with his eyes in his hands. There was definitely a lot of imagination used to create these characters and the make up effects were magnificently scary. This is like a fairytale for adults, it has the amazing visual effects on par with that of Lord of the Rings which is surprising considering the films age, but it has macabre themes to it that would not be suitable for children and the grotesque character of the Captain turns the film into a film centred around fascist social issues and how its caused the mind of a young girl to become obsessed with finding a way out from the horror. Throughout this films double narrative, i found myself accepting the idea that all the Ofelia saw was true, it didn’t cross my mind the first time until the ending of the film, where Ofelia was killed inside the Labyrinth by the Captain, that it was all a story in her mind created to protect her from the horrors of her real life, The switching between real life and fantasy was so seamless throughout that i had not acknowledged the idea that it was all psychologically invented. But when Ofelia lay dying and the scene switched to her being reunited with her father, the king of the underworld, i thought that she could had concocted this fantasy whilst mourning the loss of her real father and to take the pain of real life away, and actually have been hoping for death to reunite her with him, and then of course her mother when she died in childbirth. This film is surreal but it focus’s on some very real issues of that time and is very hard hitting when you think about it in the terms of being just like documentary of someone who had been through such trauma , that they hoped death would be better and that is what it seems like with Ofelia’s story. I think this because, of all the kings for her father to be, he was the king of the underworld, and her the princess of the underworld, she had seen such pain in her real life that she retreated into a world where death would be a welcome escape for her and she could see her parents again. That’s just my opinion of course and i don’t think i will ever be able to decide for sure whether i believe in the existence of the creatures within the story, or whether i think it was the lurid daydreams of a frightened child.
In terms of enjoyment, the film I found quite frightening and the special effects were quite disgustingly realistic, I wouldn’t say I enjoyed the film but it made me feel, which is what is intended I think. It’s like a brothers quay film perhaps, not created to be enjoyed, but created to leave a mark on those who watch it, to make you ponder its meanings afterwards, something to haunt you. I was however impressed with the creatures in the film, to make them look as horrifying was quite a feat of skill and imagination and the setting of the labyrinth looked very believable.
My favourite character in the film was “Mercedes” the lady who waited on the Captain, who was secretly fighting for the resistance and I was relieved when she wasn’t killed off. I found her to be a ray of light in the overall dark film, who fought back against fascism despite her back then meek status of being a woman. The ending where she showed no mercy to the captain and took his son whilst the rebels killed him, showed her strength and the strength of her belief in the resistance and this made a change from Ofelia’s mother who was very weak in terms of character. Overall, the film has not left my thoughts on some level since I watched it because I found it quite shocking, the effects were astoundingly better than I’d expected but the storyline I found frightening and left me feeling quite disturbed. But I cannot deny that its captivating even when you don’t want to keep watching.