Pan's Labyrinth

  • Title: Pan’s Labyrinth
  • Country of Origin: Spain-Mexico
  • Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller, Fantasy
  • Released: 2006
  • Run Time: 118 minutes
  • Director: Guillermo del Toro
  • Starring: Ariadna Gil,  Ivana Baquero,  Sergi López
  • Available on: iTunes, Amazon, Google Play
  • Recommendation by Cody Morris

Set around the Spanish Civil War, Pan’s Labyrinth takes a dark, unflinching look at the brutalities of war through the eyes of a young girl. While this movie technically fits into the fantasy genre, its raw style makes it a good fit for anyone interested in seeing a dark drama/ thriller.

Specifically, the story takes place during the post-civil war Francoist period when Spain was controlled by the Nationalist dictator, Francisco Franco. Spanish Maquis (republican rebels) carried out guerrilla activities like sabotage and robberies to fight back against the powerful Francoists. Pan’s Labyrinth then tells the tale of a girl, Ofelia, who was taken to the hostile countryside with her mother to live with her new stepdad, Francoist Captain Vidal. On the way, they pass skirmishes between Francoists and Spanish Maquis. As Ofelia worries about her sick and pregnant mother, she is scarcely sheltered from the acts of Vidal, a brutal and violent man, who is tasked with hunting down and killing Spanish Maquis. While reality worsens day by day for Ofelia, hope comes in the form of a dark and mysterious fantasy world.

What I loved about this movie is how well del Toro balances the violent realities of a war and the beautiful promises of a dark fantasy world to keep us on edge and thrilled throughout. Using his characteristic practical special effects and eerie set designs, del Toro’s style is perfected in this masterpiece.

While I wasn’t thrilled about watching a movie with subtitles the first time I watched this movie, I can honestly say that the Spanish used adds depth to the mystique of the film. In addition, the pace of the dialogue/ subtitles is nice for first time foreign film viewers who may find it laborious to read subtitles while trying to appreciate the subtleties of the acting and cinematography. (Fun fact: this was first foreign language film I watched as a kid.)