CGB Review of Pan’s Labyrinth/El Laberinto del Fauno (1,000 likes special!)

So when the Catholic Girl Bloggin’ Facebook page hit 1,000 likes, I knew I had to do something special to celebrate.  I decided to do a review of my favorite movie of all time.

This is my review of Pan’s Labyrinth/El Laberinto del Fauno!

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Pan’s Labyrinth opens with a fairy tale about Princess Moanna, the daughter of the king of the underworld.  One day she escapes from the underworld and enters the human world.  The minute the sunlight touches her eyes, she is blinded and all memory of her time as royalty is forgotten.  She lives among the mortals until sickness claims her life.  Her father believes that her spirit will one day find its way home.
Fast-forward to post-Civil War Spain in 1944; a young girl named Ofelia and her pregnant mother Carmen have moved to the countryside to live with Ofelia’s new stepfather Captain Vidal.  Lonely and isolated, Ofelia seeks refuge in the mill’s abandoned labyrinth, where she comes across a Faun who tells her that she is Princess Moanna and that in order to return to the underworld, she must complete three tasks before the full moon rises.

Guys and gals, I’ve been wanting to review this movie for a very long time.  I love this movie to pieces.  I discovered it six years ago and I’ve watched it 20 times ever since.  This movie was a turning point in my life and really changed my outlook on storytelling, so I have a lot to say about this gem.

The Hits
If you want to see some quality acting, look no further.  Every actor in this movie is exceptional; even the supporting characters give great performances!
Ivana Baquero plays Ofelia/Princess Moanna and she is wonderful.  A lover of fairy tales who finds comfort in her books, Ofelia is a lonesome innocent trapped in the brutal world of her stepfather’s mill.   Ofelia was originally written as an 8-year old, but 11-year old Baquero impressed Guillermo del Toro so much that he made revisions to the script so that he could cast Baquero, which was a wise decision in my opinion.  She looks young enough to still be reading fairy tale books, but is also old enough to be going on perilous quests.
Ariadna Gil plays her mother Carmen, who is sedated for a good chunk of the movie.  I like that the movie makes her a grounded, world-weary adult instead of villifying her for dismissing Ofelia’s obessesion with fairy tales.   Maribel Verdu is warm and empathetic as Mercedes, a housekeeper/revoluntionary who is conspiring with a group of rebels to take down Captain Vidal.
The most impressive performance comes from Sergei Lopez as Captain Vidal. What makes him stand out is that he is actually a comedic actor in his native Catalonia and producers had warned Del Toro that he might not fit the role of Vidal.  Lopez has said, “He [Vidal] is the most evil character I’ve ever played in my career.”  He’s right on the money because Captain Vidal is one sadistic son of a gun.  A cold and deranged fascist who is addicted to violence, Captain Vidal rules the mill with an iron fist that has been heated by the flames of Hell.
This movie came out in 2007, yet the special effects have aged gracefully.  The creatures are brilliantly designed and feel like unique monsters, especially the Pale Man (that guy with eyes on his hands).  I love that the fairies have earth-tone skin with leaf wings.  A lot of the scenes take place at night, so the use of midnight turquoise lighting instead of midnight blue makes it easy to see all that’s going on. Oh, and did I mention that the music is a hypnotic, melancholic lullaby that will haunt your ears long after the credits roll?

The Misses
No film is perfect.  As much as I praise this movie to high Heaven, there are some drawbacks.
I’ve always felt that Ofelia is not connected enough to the violence that surrounds her.  There’s never a scene where she witnesses her stepfather committing a violent act.  Yes, there’s a scene where Captain Vidal murders a man and his grown son, but Ofelia is absent from this scene.  I’m not saying that I would’ve preferred having her shoehorned into a scene where she’s not needed, but still, her disconnect has always been a problem for me.
There’s one major continuity error that if CinemaSins ever did an “Everything Wrong with Pan’s Labyrinth” video, they would pick up on it.
Also it’s sort of a SPOILER, so…SPOILER ALERT in 3…2…1…
After Ofelia completes the first task, she has to open the Book of Crossroads to find out what the second task is.  Shades of red explode across the pages and Ofelia hears her mother gasping.  She finds her very pregnant mother bleeding profusely.  Later that night, Ofelia, who is now sleeping in the attic, is visited by the Faun who says, “You did not complete the task,” to which Ofelia responds, “No, my mother–she was sick…”
This scene has always bothered me because after she defeated the Toad in the tree and got the golden key, the Faun told her to be patient and wait for her next assignment.  The next day, Ofelia opens the Book of Crossroads and then shiz goes down with her mother.  I don’t remember the Faun telling her there was something she needed to do before the second task; he just told her to be patient.
My guess is that this problem got overlooked in the screenwriting process. Director Guillermo del Toro did a lot of the work himself; directing, screenwriting, editing, giving up his salary to avoid budget constraints, even writing the subtitles! When a project as massive as this falls on the shoulders of one person, it’s easy for something to get overlooked.

Pan’s Labyrinth will always and forever be my #1 favorite film.  It’s a dark and poetic story with well-defined characters portrayed by great actors, a beautiful musical score and stunning visuals.  It doesn’t need a sequel, a prequel or a reboot. Just let it be the gothic fairy tale that it was always meant to be.

Saint Rose of Lima, pray for us.

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