Running time: 113 mins (approx)
Certificate (UK): 15
Watched on DVD Wednesday 5th August 2009.
PLEASE NOTE: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.
Set in the fascist Spain of 1944, this film counterpoints the harsh brutality of a country torn apart by civil war with the fantasy world visited by the young Ofelia. It has had some rave reviews, so I watched it with a little scepticism. I had no reason, those critics were correct, it’s quite brilliant. Maybe it’s because the film is in Spanish, so I watched it with subtitles, which meant I had to concentrate all the way through, but it really blew me away!
Ofelia and her sick and pregnant mother, Carmen, travel to be with her husband, Ofelia’s stepfather, at a garrison in the mountains. The husband, Captain Vidal is a sadistic and cruel fascist who only wants a son and heir. Ofelia is obsessed with fairy tales and is enchanted by the labyrinth that lies behind their dwelling. She goes into the labyrinth where she meets a faun who tells her that she is a princess from a kingdom in the underground. She is given three gruesome and gruelling tasks to perform before she can be reunited with her father, the king. Meanwhile, the garrison is under threat of attack from rebels in the hills, one of which is the brother of Ofelia’s friend, the servant Mercedes. Ofelia is drawn more and more into the fantasy world in order to escape the harsh realities going on all around. Her only hope is that she can complete the tasks and be reunited with her father again.
There are several very brutal scenes that you may not expect in a film like this, however, they serve very well to show the harshness of the world Ofelia finds herself in. I must take my hat off to Guillermo del Toro; he has come up with a truly magical film. Brilliant sets, costumes, make-up, production design and music (I’m listening to some of the score right now… it’s magical). Excellent performances from Ivana Baquero as Ofelia, Sergi López as Captain Videl, Maribel Verdú as Mercedes, Doug Jones as the Faun and the Pale Man and Ariadna Gil as Carmen Vidal. Honourable mentions go to Álex Angulo as the Doctor and Manolo Solo as Garcés. Over all, a magical film set in a brutal and very real world. If you’ve never seen it, I can’t recommend it highly enough!
My score: 9.5/10
IMDb Site: http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt0457430/
Official (English) Site: http://www.panslabyrinth.com/