Writer/Director: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Ivana Baquero, Doug Jones, Sergi López, Maribel Verdú
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Horror, Thriller
From the Poster: It's fairy tale.......It's like Alice in Wonderland for grown ups.......
Opening Scene: Ofelia lies panting on the floor...the forgotten Kingdom has awaken...
As the movie opens, the year is 1944....the setting in fascist Spain World War II, Franco has won, where it is the duty of all the peasants to follow Franco's government or die....Ofelia's mother has remarried to a Captain in the Franco's Army, pregnant with his son. Ofelia's father has been killed and she has retreated into her only safe haven, her books.
Ofelia's mother is afraid her daughter will not meet Captain Vidal's stringent standards, and she must, they both must, if they are to survive. The pregnancy has not been an easy one, she is ill all the time and survival is doubtful.
The Captain requires that their family live in the country where he has been fighting rebels, no one can be trusted, torture is his way of life. He is horrible and wicked, reveling in his treatment of others. Ofelia dreads having to live in close contact with him, she can see the pure evil that he is.
Ofelia retreats further into her books, discovering the opening to a labyrinth where she meets Faun and Fairies who claim to be waiting for her, Princess Moanna, and if she can completes three simple tasks before the full moon, then she will be granted passage back into the forgotten Kingdom where once she lived.
The three tasks are appear simply enough:
1) Retrieve a key from the belly of a toad
2) Use the key to open a hidden drawn and retrieve a dagger
3) Escape the evil Captain with her newborn baby brother and enter the labyrinth
But, in the meantime, her mother has become very ill, she overhears the Captain tell the doctor that if it's choice between mother or child, save the child. Ofelia must try to save them both. The Faun comes to her and tells her to place a mandrake root in a bowl of fresh milk under her mother's bed and to feed it two drops of blood each day, it will revive her mother.
The first task is easy, she tricks the toad into giving up the key. The second task is harder, she must travel underground to retrieve the dagger, and not eat any food though she has been barely surviving on bread and milk, temptation overcomes her and she eat two grapes--awakening the beast that wants to eat her. She barely escapes with her life and two of her fairies are eaten in her place.
As she completes the second task, her step-father discovers the bowl of milk under the bed and burns the root, killing her mother during childbirth. The Rebel forces are gathering and are attempting to take Spain back. Ofelia's only friend is Mercedes, the house maid, who cares for her after the loss of her mother.
The Faun comes to her again, telling her to take the baby and come to the labyrinth that night. Mercedes has been caught trying help the rebels, and Ofelia knows she must leave if she is to live. The Captain is happy, there will be torture tonight, but unknown to the Captain, Mercedes has hidden a knife with which she slices the Captain and makes her escape.
Just when the Captain's men are about the recapture her, the rebel forces strike, and she is saved. While the Captain is distracted caring for his wounds, Ofelia sneaks in and steals her brother, she has drugged the Captain, but not enough. He chases her back to the labyrinth, but losses her in the maze.
The Faun comes to Ofelia, showing her the dagger. For the price of her brother's blood, he can open the door to the labyrinth and together, they can return to the Kingdom. Ofelia refuses to sacrifice her brother and the Faun leaves her to the Captain. Captain Vidal finds her and takes the baby as she is crying. The evilness oozes from his body and he shoots Ofelia, leaving her on the labyrinth floor to die.
In that moment the rebels arrive, take the baby, kill the Captain, and find Ofelia, but it is too late. Mercedes holds Ofelia while her spirit slips away. As she lies dying, the Kingdom awakens to open for her revealing her true mother and father. They praise her for saving the baby's life and sacrificing her own. She can return to the Kingdom of her birth and take her rightful place on the throne.
Pan's Labyrinth is suppose to be an adult fairy tale. If you remember Alice in Wonderland, then you know of all the horrible tricks that were placed on Alice to the point of almost losing her head, as in many fairy tales, and there is the happily ever after only the hero/heroine has suffered. The same is true for Pan Labyrinth, Ofelia is put to many tests to try to gain her freedom and happiness. The country side where the movie takes place would have been beautiful if not for the destruction the viewers had to witness. The sadist Captain is always looking for an opening that will allow him to use the skills he takes pride in practicing. I feel this is an important movie in that it expresses the fears and doubts present at the time, and I fear it was an accurate presentation of facts. There are many barbarians throughout history, but World War II showed them at their best. I'm not sure there was a moral to this movie other than to be thankful for your life and those that you cherish. I don't believe I would have chosen this movie to watch, but my son's film class has it as a required movie, and I was watching it with him. I was horrified, but impressed by this movie. I cried for the young Ofelia as her plight was undeniable one that was not going to see the happily ever after, only in her after life was this possible.