Pan's Labyrinth

Pan's Labyrinth ★★★★

Merging a brutal war drama with fantasy shouldn't work, but here's Guillermo del Toro pulling off the impossible.

Taking place after the Spanish Civil War, in the early years of Franco's rule, Pan’s Labyrinth showcases the harsh reality of the Resistance's fight to free Spain. This reality is seen through the eyes of Ofelia, an 11-year-old girl, who moves to rural Spain after her mother marries a captain in the wake of her father's death. Ofelia deals with the trauma of war and a new life in her own way: she basks in fantasy. Fairy tales and her imagination help her survive, magic making her life a little less tragic.

It's interesting to see the brutality of war juxtaposed with the gentleness of fantasy – two separate worlds with nothing in common, brought together by a child. What's even more interesting, however, is that this fantasy isn't entirely gentle. The creatures that Ofelia encounters aren't exactly friendly-looking, but (for the most part) they prove themselves to be well-meaning. Faun, for instance, helps her with a cure for her sick mother and gives the possibility of choosing a better life. Ofelia's worldview has undoubtedly been shaped by what she has lived and seen, by the cruelty she has endured, but her heart has remained gentle. Fairy tales have helped her retain her kindness.

It's only my second Guillermo del Toro film, but so far, I love how wild his imagination runs through his films and how he defies appearances through fantasy.

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