Pan's Labyrinth Reviews
The movie is that original, and that attuned to the power of myth. I don't see why it shouldn't sit on the same altar of High Fantasy as the Lord of the Rings trilogy -- it's that worthy.
Pan's Labyrinth artfully fuses a war film with a family melodrama and a fairy tale. The result is visually stunning and emotionally shattering. Though graphically violent in parts, it still manages to be enchanting.
So breathtaking in its artistic ambition, so technically accomplished, so morally expansive, so fully realized that it defies the usual critical blather. See it, and celebrate that rare occasion when a director has the audacity to commit cinema.
Del Toro's gratifying surreal and fantastical instincts now have an unstinting moral eye on the world. Saying a filmmaker has matured suggests that he's forgone what made him so entertaining in the first place.
I've seen this film three times and cannot claim to know whether its fantasy characters and events are meant to exist solely in the imagination of the 12-year-old girl at the center of the story, or if she is the only human aware of them.
As each turn of events proves more menacing than the last to the young heroine of Pan's Labyrinth, her mother admonishes her: "Life isn't like your fairy tales." But it is. That's the secret at the center of Guillermo del Toro's magnificent film.
Pan's Labyrinth plays with dark magic, a hideous enchantment spun with grief and torment. It is emotionally devastating and sensuously rich: Details are as sharp as the ching of a straight-edge razor, as strange as the squeal of a magic root.
Pan's Labyrinth works on several levels. It boldly captures the horror of war, the bloody violence as well as the emotional stifling of the soul, and juxtaposes it with the enchantment of a nether land bathed in hope and eternity.
Pan's Labyrinth suggests that fairy-tale violence helps the vulnerable process and overcome real-life conflicts and that real-life violence permanently smashes the soul and the heart.
It explores the connection between fantasy and reality, with eyes wide open to the dangers of giving either too much credence. That it works on both levels is impressive; that it makes them so clearly one is the stuff of art.
In coming up with one of the finest modern fantasies to date, del Toro seamlessly blends two stories, one set in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War and the other in a parallel realm of fairies and fauns.