Friday, December 29, 2006

Pan's Labyrinth

The latest film from director Guillermo del Toro is a masterpiece. A blend of fantasy mixed with harsh reality creates a perfect film experience. The acting is excellent, the visuals amazing, and the story, original and totally captivating. Traditionally, I don't publish my yearly Top 10 list until January 1st but right now, this is the film to beat.

The year is 1944 and the civil war in Spain has just ended. A remote army outpost in the forest, run by a sadistic Army captain, is the setting for the story. The captain's pregnant wife arrives with her daughter Ofelia (from a previous marriage) to live with him while she brings her pregnancy to term. Ofelia's real father has died and she doesn't look forward to her new life until she discovers what she believes to be a fairy, and an old Labyrinth behind the building where they live.

The captain spends his days searching the forest for lingering rebels still fighting the war. Ofelia spends her days in a fantasy world of fauns and fairies. The magic of del Toro's story lies in the blending of the two worlds. Has Ofelia discovered a different existence within the labyrinth or is it of her own creation to escape her dark reality?

The art direction and cinematography are stunning. The fantasy sequences are beautiful as well as frightening. The captain's actions against the rebels are brutal and violent. This fairy tale of a film is not meant for children. The film is in Spanish with English subtitles but much of the story is visual and words aren't even necessary. This is a film not to be missed. It's simply remarkable. And if you do enjoy it (as I hope you will), rent del Toro's earlier work, "The Devil's Backbone", an excellent film as well which explores similar themes.

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