Pan’s Labyrinth

Wow. This is one of those films that leaves you feeling shaken, and the world seems slightly off as you walk back to your car. I wanted to see it because it is considered to be the front-runner for the Best Foreign Film Oscar®, because it has an impossibly-high 98 rating on metacritic.com, and because IMDb users currently have it as the 63rd best movie of all time.

The setting is Spain in 1944. Ofelia and her pregnant mother Carmen are traveling to live with Captain Vidal (Sergi López from With a Friend Like Harry). Vidal is Carmen’s new husband after her first husband (and Ofelia’s father) died. He is focused on his unborn son and on beating back the rebels who live in the nearby forests. Ofelia is absorbed in her fairy tale books. Carmen just wants Ofelia to accept her new father and to survive. The other key character is housekeeper Mercedes (Maribel Verdú from Y Tu Mamá También).

The film takes place in two parallel worlds: The “real” world of Captain Vidal, the rebels, Carmen and her pregnancy, and so on, and the “fairy tale” world of Ofelia, a faun named Pan, and other creatures great and strange. Of course Ofelia also exists in the real world, whose occupants find her behavior hard to understand or tolerate.

I don’t want to go into too much detail because the details are really quite remarkable, but I do want to issue a warning: This is a very challenging film. There is serious violence that I found much more difficult to watch than say, Letters from Iwo Jima. And when there isn’t violence, there is still a palpable tension.

The performances are all first-rate. López’s Captain Vidal is the best screen villain I have seen in years, and the girl who plays Ofelia is amazing. The special effects are mostly not computer generated, giving them an organic feel that really works. And the cinematography is also worthy of the Oscar® nomination it got.

The bottom line is that if my warning didn’t scare you away, you definitely need to see this film.

I give it 4 stars out of 4 stars.

Seen 2/19/2007.

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One Response to “Pan’s Labyrinth”

  1. After the Wedding « Random Musings About Movies and More Says:

    […] this film was nominated for the best foreign language film Oscar®. While I would definitely pick Pan’s Labyrinth over this one, I would have a harder time deciding the relative ranking of this one with The Lives […]

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