Pan's Labyrinth

Superlative fairy tale for grown-ups
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Guillermo del Toro’s superlative fairy tale for grown-ups arrives on DVD with cult status already guaranteed.

Set against the violence and misery of the Spanish Civil War; the film follows unhappy young dreamer Ofelia as she and her mother travel to a remote military outpost to live with her new father-in-law, the narcissistic tyrant Capt. Vidal. It soon becomes clear that Vidal has no interest in Ofelia, having only married her mother in order to produce a son. He also reveals himself to be a sadistic monster of a man, equally at home whether murdering young shepherds or terrorizing poor Ofelia.

She retreats into a fantasy world of beguiling fauns, self-fulfilling prophecy and eye clutching child-eaters. The faun, who notably appears in Ofelia’s life during times of extreme stress, sets her three tasks which she must complete in order to take her throne as an immortal princess.

Del Toro’s great psychological achievement in the film is that we very quickly realise that the ‘real world’ (albeit a slightly heightened, uber-real version of reality) is a far scarier place than the world of the faun, even with the giant toads and child catchers. Vidal represents the true evil; made all the more horrific because we know that people such as him can and do exist.

This is not to downplay the script which is pacey, powerful and fiercely emotive, not least the heart rending final act – already famed for its ability to bring grown men to the point of tears. The performances, particularly of Banquero, Lopez and Mariel Verdu as Ofelia’s rebel sympathising maid, are nothing short of superb.

Richly deserving of its Oscar nominations, there can be no discernable reason why a lover of cinema would not want to see this movie.

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