Went to see Pan's Labyrinth last night. Considering all the rave reviews, including one comparing it to the Lord of the Rings, I expected to like it much more than I did. Don't get me wrong, I think it was an excellent movie in many ways: original and creative script, beautifully filmed, well-acted, but it was not the movie I was expecting. I was expecting something like Mirrormask (absolutely amazing, if you haven't seen it) or some version of Through the Looking Glass. Instead, this film is very dark and disturbingly violent. And although it has been promoted as a fantasy film featuring a wide-eyed young girl, it is definitely NOT for children! It is much more about the real-life evil represented by the brutal Spanish civil war of 1936-39 where a group of right-wing generals led by Franco and supported by Hitler and Mussolini toppled the elected leftist government. Into this real historic event is mixed a kind of magical realism involving the faun Pan, and a story about a princess who must face some horrific monsters. In addition, it is in Spanish, with subtitles, so kids might have a hard time following it. I repeat, NOT a film for children.
The story is about a young girl named Ofelia who accompanies her mother to a camp to join her step-father, the brutal and sadistic Captain Vidal in the midst of the war. Her mother is pregnant with the Captain's child and is having a difficult time. Along the way Ofelia encounters a strange bug which she thinks is a fairy and who becomes her guide into a strange world of myth and magic at the heart of a labyrinth located near the camp. In the meantime, a real-life struggle is going on between resistance fighters in the hills and the Captain's forces. Two characters in the camp, the Doctor and the servant, Mercedes, are helping the "rebels" from the inside. In the course of the story, many horrific things happen to the characters, including graphic torture scenes. That "real" world is juxtaposed with Ofelia's nightmarish trips in the magical world to confront evil (truly imaginative monsters) and perform tasks to fulfill her mythic role as a princess. And I have to warn you, many people die by the end.
The theme is that one must always stand up to tyranny, no matter what the cost. A good theme. It is also about the transforming power of story, methinks. Interesting that the Captain's story about his own father's death was what guided him in his obsession with having a son and passing on his father's bizarre legacy. The part of the story dealing with Pan's Labyrinth is clearly allegorical in nature.
In any case, I do recommend the movie. Just go, realizing that it is NOT a Lord of the Rings or a Narnia type fantasy and that it has scenes that will disturb and haunt you, most of them having to do with the actions of the Captain, who at one point ironically says, "I am not a monster" but clearly is more a monster than those in the magical realm into which Ofelia escapes.