Pan's Labyrinth (15)

Written and Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Screening at FACT from 24th November - 14th December 2006

Reviewed by Adam Ford

All fairytales are based on reality. After all, they are created by real people, in real situations. You'll be hard pressed to find a fairy in the material world, but the fact that imaginations conjure them up holds a mirror to that material existence. The best fairytales therefore reflect reality, and yet go beyond it, revealing something far deeper than the five senses can normally perceive. Pan's Labyrinth definitely belongs in that category, giving us an insight into war through the eyes of a child.

Using the medium of my typed words, transport yourself to Spain in 1943. Franco's counter-revolution is almost complete, and fascists have almost total control. Young Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) is travelling through the countryside with her pregnant mother (Ariadna Gil), towards the castle where her new 'father', Capitán Vidal (Sergi López) plans and executes his vicious retribution against the revolutionaries whose 'false' belief in human equality forces them into the mountains. Trapped by her own circumstances, Ofelia begins to fantasise about fauns, magic kingdoms and labyrinths.

Despite a relatively small budget, the visuals stand up well to comparisons with The Chronicles Of Narnia and Lord Of The Rings. They actually live up to the glory of a ten year old's imagination, taking influences from Goya to the gods of Ancient Rome, before blending into a super-real image of a ten-year-old's imagination, as designed by Guillermo del Toro.

It is very intriguing that Pan's Labyrinth is getting a massive push in the media this week, with at least three critics describing it as their film of the year. Certain scenes are timely reminders of the depths which supposedly democratic western governments are eagerly sinking. The film paints the bloodthirsty, authoritarian government as the baddies, so those who resist it are the goodies.

I just wish we’d had this fairytale in school instead of the Bible.

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