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  Publicity Stills of "Pan's Labyrinth"
(Courtesy from Festive Films)

Genre: Fantasy/Action
Director: Guillermo Del Toro
Starring: Sergi Lopez ("Dirty Pretty Thing", "Harry is here to help"), Maribel Verdu ("Y Tumama Tambien") and Ivana Baquero ("Fragile")
RunTime: 1 hr 45 mins
Released By: Festive Films & GV
Rating: NC-16 (Some Violence)
Official website: http://www.panslabyrinth.com

Opening Day: 11 Jan 2007

Synopsis :

Spain 1944. The civil war has been over for 5 years. Carmen, recently remarried, settles down with her daughter Ofélia in the home of her new husband, the highly domineering Vidal, captain in the pro-Franco army. While the little girl struggles to get used to her new life, she discovers nearby the great family house a mysterious labyrinth. Pan, its faithful guardian, a strange magical and demonic creature, will reveal to her that she is none other than the princess who long ago disappeared from an enchanted realm. To discover the truth, Ofélia will have to face three dangerous trials that nothing on earth has prepared her for...

Movie Review:

Sometimes, when all the elements of a great film masterfully come together, to bring the viewer such an experience, such wonderment and emotion, that words are truly needless.

Writer-Director Guillermo Del Toro’s sixth film, Pan’s Labyrinth (El Laberinto del Faun) is one such movie. Grim, dark and steeped in pagan symbolism and mysticism, it is a horrific and political fairytale where reality and fantasy meet and entwine. We will never really know where the fantasy ends and reality begins, for one is too real and the brutality and cruelty of the latter, too mad and shocking. Nonetheless, we perceive Ofelia’s (Ivana Baquero) world as imaginary, but Del Toro’s skill will surely leave you wondering.

Ivana Baquero as Ofelia proves to be a consummate and underrated actress. Her every move, every subtle nuance and grace, as well as her deep understanding of Ofelia’s pending psyche and pending maturation, create for us an amazing and totally believable character. Kudos to Maribel Verdu as well, who plays the affectionate but strong Mercedes. The sound of the film is superb as is the beautifully haunting score.

However, as with another of Del Toro’s magnificent films, The Devil’s Backbone (2001), Pan does suffer from a slow and rather long exposition. It is also a travesty that a film that takes so much care and detail in filmmaking makes a shoddy attempt at CG blood splatter. But once you are immersed in the drama, all is quickly forgiven.

The visual elements are nothing short of stunning. Mixing CG with traditional costumes, make-up and sets, Del Toro achieves a new and wonderfully fantastic new world of visual delight. A great pity that there were so few of these scenes! Monsters are always present in Fantasy. And in this film alone, Pan’s Labyrinth has created not one, but three monsters that will forever be etched in the annals of monster fame.

Here Pan, the Faun, is no longer the cute pipe tooting half man, half –goat, but a more demonic, mysterious ram/tree and root hybrid. Actor Doug Jones brings Pan to life, with a unique and grunting voice. He also plays the terrifying Pale Man – a grotesque creation on sacrilegious legs with eyes in the palms of his hands. This beast makes the creatures from Silent Hill look harmless and bland. The very thought of it now, arm outstretched, limping and looking for its next victim still sends shivers down my spine.

In tales of Fantasy, the protagonists always have to face up to monsters, whether they be inner demons, or real physical entities. And here, the biggest, most vile monster is not Pan nor the Pale Man, but Captain Vidal (Sergi Lopez in this brilliant role), Ofelia’s stepfather. This is a man so brutal and heartless that he will do anything including torture and murder for fascism’s (and his) own ends. And worse, he takes delight in doing it.

With Pan’s Labyrinth, Del Toro marries numerous genre films and themes into one fluid, engaging and beautiful work of Art.

Movie Rating:

(A Masterpiece!)

Review by Darren Sim

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