Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Short Take: Pan's Labyrinth

Pan's Labyrinth, a dark-toned fantasy picture written and directed by Guillermo del Toro, is set in Spain a few years after the country's civil war. A young girl (Ivana Baquero) goes to live with her mother (Ariadna Gil) and stepfather (Sergi López) at a military outpost in the Spanish countryside. The stepfather commands a unit charged with rooting out resistance fighters in the nearby mountains. The girl is unhappy. Her mother is pregnant, and her stepfather takes no interest in her. One night, an insect fairy takes the girl to meet the Faun, who tells her she is the reincarnation of Princess Moanna of the Underground Realm. He gives her three tasks to complete. If she succeeds, she can return to the fantasy kingdom where she lived in her previous life. The film has the makings of a children's story, and the imagery is as magical as has ever been seen in movies. But it is not for kids. Del Toro clearly intends the film as a fairy tale for adults, and it is a dark, complex allegory of the conflict between authority and independence. The climactic scenes are both horrifically violent and terrifyingly beautiful. The film is just gorgeously realized, both in terms of visual design and dramatic intensity. It is certainly among the greatest fantasy films ever made. The masterful cinematography is by Guillermo Navarro.

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