Right, so, where to begin? A brief synopsis might be in order here. Well, Pan's Labyrinth is set in Franco's Spain and juxtaposes the story of the antifascist struggle against the regime to young Ofelia's retreat into an extremely creepy fantasy world. The film takes place almost entirely in a military campsite deep in a mountainous and forested area, with lots of eerie-looking woodland to add to the setting. There's Mercedes, one of the servants, there's Ofelia, there's Ofelia's mum, and then there's Ofelia's mum's husband, the Capitan. The Capitan is a bad, bad man. Ofelia doesn't want to call the Capitan 'father'; all she wants is to read her books and sit with her depressed mum and be left alone. But she's also extremely observant and curious and innocent, and she discovers a portal to a hidden world, one day, guided by a slightly shifty-looking faun. She's not going to be left alone after that.
The interplay between fairy tale and reality is astonishing. Ofelia's fantasy is populated with typical fantastic creatures and, very much in the manner of classic fairy tales, she has several 'tasks' to fulfil. My memory of the literary conventions of fairy tales is somewhat rusty, but I do remember Karl Popper and the elements he identified. Popper talked about protagonists and antagonists, tasks and magical helpers, balance and disequilibrium. Ofelia's tasks may be all rather magical in nature, but her antagonist is human and unambiguosly real. Her helpers are the Faun and Mercedes; one magical, one human. The disequilibrium is constant and overwhelming; people get murdered in this film, but not by monsters; by other people.
That's the point, I suppose. Believing is what counts, it's what brings hope and makes everything better. Another point is that you shouldn't stress children out by smashing bottles into people's faces (don't look at me like that, it happened in the film!), because otherwise their fantasy world will have fairies that look like grasshoppers and toads that live in the dirty, dirty mud. Ew.
Next review: Music and Lyrics. Best romantic comedy I've seen since You've Got Mail.