Miles on Movies

Pan's Labyrinth

reviewed by R. Miles Mendenhall

Waiting patiently for the local release of this film has been difficult. Just about every critic put it in his or her top ten list for last year. I’ve been seeing previews for it for three or four months. I’ve read at least six or seven reviews of it. Finally it is playing in central Sonoma County!

“Pan’s Labyrinth”, or “The Labyrinth of a Faun” in a literal translation of the title, is not for the squeamish. Some scenes are very brutal, uncompromisingly brutal. This is a dark, morose, brooding tale that is also life affirming. Well, really not so much life affirming as affirming the power of the imagination to help us transcend the suffering inherent in life.

Ofelia is a young Spanish girl brought to the countryside with her pregnant mother by her intimidating stepfather. He is a captain of fascist troops at the end of the Spanish Civil War engaged in the mop-up of local guerilla forces that have yet to capitulate. Ofelia is brought to the threshold of the underworld by a nymph; where she meets Pan (The Faun) who informs her that she is the soul of a lost princess who must complete three tasks to regain her throne. The film shifts between the “real” world of the end of the war struggle and the “fantasy” world of Ofelia’s quest.

My experience was one of constant tension, to the point of terror as the story rushes forward. I won’t go into any more plot points, so as not to ruin any surprises. Except to say one of the protagonists is one tough mama who knows how to wield a paring knife very effectively! For those of you hip to the iconography of Paganism, you’ll enjoy the many visual references to Goddess worship religions.

I thoroughly enjoyed this Guillermo Del Toro masterpiece. I concur with the general critical consensus.


Want to know more about General Franco? See Francisco Franco, the Catholic Church and 2 Million Murders

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