Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Cinema....El Laberinto del Fauno

The latest film by Mexican director Guillermo del Toro, El Laberinto del Fauno (in English - Pan’s Labyrinth) is an extraordinary mixture of fantasy combined with a dramatic story about the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. Set in the year 1944, the film tells the story of Ofelia (played by Ivana Baquero), a young girl who travels together with her pregnant mother (Ariadna Gil) to a remote mill in the Spanish countryside. From this mill, her stepfather Captain Vidal (Sergi López), is leading a company of government soldiers in the battle against anti-Franco guerrillas hiding out in the nearby mountains. The sadistic Vidal has no interest in his stepdaughter, and only shows concern for the unborn son that his wife is carrying.

One night, close to the mill, Ofelia discovers a ruined labyrinth and inside this labyrinth she encounters a faun (played by Doug Jones), who reveals to her that she is really a princess whose return to her magical kingdom is eagerly awaited. To return to the world from which she came, she must pass three tests before the full moon. The story of how Ofelia tackles these tests provides the structure for the fantasy part of the film, and the most imaginative scenes of the film.

Meanwhile back in the real world, the mill is run by the servant Mercedes (Maribel Verdú), apparently loyal in following the orders of Vidal; whilst secretly doing everything that she can to help the rebels. The local doctor (played by Alex Angulo) also plays a dual role, taking care of Ofelia's mother and at the same time making a risky trip into the mountains to tend injured guerrilla fighters

What might otherwise have been a satisfactory, if slightly predictable, story about the continuing anti-Franco struggle after the Civil War, becomes a different film altogether with the imaginative interweaving of fantasy and oppressive reality. Somehow, del Toro manages to ensure that the two stories in the film are not separate from each other, they interconnect with each other at different points throughout the film. Bizarre though it might seem, the resulting film is strangely effective. This film did not really attract my attention when it first came out, but having seen it I have no hesitation at all in recommending it.


Evaristo said...

I had heard about it and the critics were very good. I'll try to go to see it next weekend. I am really curious about such a mixture between fantasy and reallity in a Civil War film.

Tom said...

I'd heard that it was good but I was really disappointed... it's difficult to say why, more that it just did nothing for me. Sons Of Men, on the other hand is excellent.

Graeme said...

Well unless anyone else chips in with their opinion that leaves Evaristo with the casting vote on whether this film is worth it or not. I'll be interested to hear what you think.