Review: _Pan's Labyrinth_ (or _El Laberinto de Fauno_)
The Anne Frank archetype may have came about in a sui generis fashion, but since WWII her story has given young girls around the world someone to identify with. Pan's Labyrinth, which I think is better titled in its Spanish form, El Laberinto de Fauno, depicts an Anne Frank-esque innocent, bookish young lady thrown into the upheaval of 1944 Franco's fascist Spain. Ofelia has lost her father to the war, and in a desperate situation to keep herself and her daughter safe, her mother has married a sadistic, bloodthirsty army captain, who treats Ofelia's mother as a vessel for his soon-to-be-born son. Mother and daughter join the captain as his camp.
In a forested mountain area, Spanish guerrillas fight valiantly against an arrogant government bent on creating inequality and social control through violence and power. "The war is over, but these people think it isn't," Captain Vidal says through subtitles translating the original Spanish. "We have to show them their place."
In this wartime adult world, Ofelia creates a fantasy world to deal with the conflict around her, filled with fairies, a bewitching faun from the woods, a monster frog, and a freakish murderer of children. The script develops parallel narratives -- Ofelia's fantasy world and the guerrillas versus Captain Vidal -- which meet seemlessly in the denouement. Ofelia develops her courage, while the guerrillas gain the courage to attack Vidal's regiment and protect their land and liberty. All the while, Vidal proves himself more and more villainous, and regarding the finish, we know what happens to Anne Frank, but you still won't know what happens to Ofelia.
For me, the sine qua non for a good film is for me to be able to describe it as "stylized." Guillermo del Toro takes stylization to new heights with this film, which is currently rated number 60 on Internet Movie Database. The script is ingenious in its development, the CGI fantasy-characters inspire awe, the "adult" side of the narrative displays impressive acting, and dizzyingly disparate plot and thematic elements come together seamlessly. El Laberinto de Fauno is an amazing accomplishment, a children's movie that will keep adults in suspense, an adult's movie that will introduce the realities of adult life to children, and a film that defines itself by bending the rules of cinema.
This film will shock you, kindle the fire of your imagination, and the viewer will not forget this one anytime soon, if at all. El Liberinto de Fauno is so technically sound that I will not point out areas it could be improved out of respect for Guillermo del Toro's talent. I am 100% positive about this film, and recommed it to all audiences.