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Pan's Labyrinth [2006] - 5.98

Customer reviews (av rating: 4.5):

Rating: 1:
pointless raw violence alone does not equal an intellectual masterpiece : I'm very surprised that this movie got an Oscar, and if you follow the world press, so are many others, compared to what the options were. I thought his movie was going to describe a child's perspective of growing up in wartime Spain. Not so. Despite all animated effects the whole movie consists of endlessly long scenes with the rawest kind of torture and violence. It does never end and it does not lead anywhere. Slitting up and smashing up faces with rusty knifes and broken bottles, in slow motion, and it goes on for hour and ours without a break. When you think the child is escaping into a fairy tale world it gets even more violent. A masterpiece is supposed to make the viewer think, and become emotionally involved at least on some level. Directors like Almodovar, Bergman etc. have the ability to do this even if they describe mental or physical violence, because they are mature enough to show their own vulnerability on screen, make the "bad or the sick guys" multidimensional. Not so in this one. This is pure one-dimensional, immature, pointless violence from beginning to the end.

It seemed like everyone in the audience sighed of relief when this endless slaughtering was over. No one started a discussion, there was nothing you wanted to remember or think about, nothing to grip you intellectually or emotionally.

PS. don't ever bring a child to watch this one, the advert poster is very much deceiving.

Rating: 3:
Special effects were excellent : I really thought I would dislike this film, purely because I don't like foreign films with subtitles. However, I didn't hate it - I didn't love it either. The special effects in this film are amazing but some of the 'real' acting is quite graphic in parts.

The film is a story about a spanish child who moves with her mother to live with her new father, a soldier. She discovers a labyrinth and then all sorts of mystical creatures including a faun, who I believe is Pan, who sets her 3 challenges to meet before the full moon has risen. I can't really say too much more about the film as I don't want to give too much away.

The child who plays Ofelia, the one who must complete the challenges, is great. As for the rest of the acting - it was OK.

I wouldn't say that this film has totally changed my opinion of subtitled films, but I wouldn't dismiss them out of hand now.

Rating: 5:
A uniquely brilliant, visionary motion picture : For me, this film sort of came out of nowhere. It's not often that a Spanish film (with subtitles, at that) becomes all the rage in America, but I just kept seeing references to this thing all over the place. Having watched it, I can see why - it really is a wondrous, compelling, emotional cinematic experience. Many have dubbed Pan's Labyrinth a fairy tale for adults, and I think that designation is pretty apt. A lot of people aren't aware of the fact that many fairy tales were, in their infancy, pretty dark little stories. As often as not, fairy tale characters did not live happily ever after at all - in some cases, they didn't even live through the stories. This particular film features pain and anguish alongside some fairly jarring and brutal moments. Certainly, it's not a film for the vast majority of children out there, but I see no reason in the world for it receiving an R rather than a PG-13 rating.

The central character of the story is a twelve-year-old girl named Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), an imaginative child accompanying her very pregnant mother to the military post run by her step-father. The year is 1944, and Capitan Vidal (Sergi Lopez) is there to take out the remaining anti-Franco rebels hiding out in the woodlands. He is an exceedingly cruel and ruthless man, as the audience learns fairly early on. With her mother bedridden, Ofelia wanders outside to follow a fairy through the ancient stone structure called Pan's Labyrinth, eventually entering a circular underground structure. It is there that she meets an otherworldly faun (Doug Jones) and learns that she is actually a fairy princess who lost all of her old memories when she ran off to the world of humans years ago. Before she can return to her fairy kingdom, however, she must complete three tasks to prove that she is the rightful princess. The tasks are not easy - but, on the other hand, Ofelia's human life is not easy either. Her step-father cares only about the impending birth of his child (which he assumes will be a son), her mother (Ariadna Gil) is basically unavailable because her pregnancy has turned into a dangerous one, and she has no one else apart from a servant named Mercedes (Maribel Verdu) who cares one iota about her. It is not hard to see why she becomes increasingly enchanted with the idea of exchanging the miseries of human life for the joys of the fairy realm.

Running alongside Ofelia's story is that of the anti-government rebels trying to survive out in the woods, despite Capitan Vidal's attempts to horde all available sources of food and medicine. What Vidal does not know is that rebel sympathizers are hidden amongst his own personal staff - two individuals who will emerge as the two unquestioned heroes of this entire story. Both of these worlds eventually smash together by the end of the film, setting the stage for a bittersweet ending that leaves much to the viewer's imagination.

There's an amazing pathos to this film that might take you unawares, particularly if you are used to a steady diet of Hollywood throw-away scripts. Pan's Labyrinth galvanizes your emotions and compels you to look beneath the surface of the mundane. It may even rekindle that sense of wonder that you seemingly lost all those years ago. It is truly a most glorious film.

Rating: 5:
Strong, intelligent, and very moving. : This is a sublimely imaginative, original and powerful film set both within the shockingly violent world of Franco's Spain and the imagination of a young girl (which although an escape from her harsh surroundings is not an area of comfortable certainties). The film appears to have something in common with the real Grimm's fairytales in that it is a dark tale designed to speak of unpalatable truths.
In the end, the film begs the question of what is real or true in an astute manner and does not disappoint on any level.

Rating: 5:
Del Toro's best film : Highly acclaimed and rightly so, this is probably the best example of Guillermo Del Toro's strange take on the world. This is essentially two narratives, with the 'real world' being represented by Spain at the tail end of the Spanish Civil War, and the 'fantasy world' of young Ofelia, forced to go live with her violent stepfather in a remote military outpost. There are some stong scenes of torture and brutality on the 'real' world so it is not really ideally suited for children, but for me, this film now surpasses 'the Devil's backbone' as Tel Toro's best film.

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