Inside a fairy tale world

It’s hard to imagine that the director of horrendously bad movies such as Blade II and Hellboy wrote and directed Pan’s Labyrinth, one of 2006’s best films. But major kudos must be given to Guillermo del Toro for his wonderful visionary fairy tale that’s good enough to bring even the roughest and toughest of adults back to the days when they were spellbound by magical stories.

The movie is set in 1944 against the post-war repression of Franco’s Spain. Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), a lonely child, is transported to live with her very pregnant mother (Ariadna Gil) and very fascist adoptive father (Sergi Lopez), who was recently given a new military outpost under his command. In order to escape the trials and tribulations at the hands of the mad man, Ofelia creates her own fantasy world.

There are numerous plots going on in this movie. The way the plots are constructed and weaved together is a truly brilliant maneuver on del Toro’s part. On the one hand we have Ofelia’s fantasy world, in which she has to complete three tasks before the next full moon in order for her to open a portal made possible by her deceased father, and escape to the land of seven circular gardens that lead to her castle. Then there’s the subplot of the mothers deteriorating health, affecting both the baby inside her and what is to become of Ofelia once she dies. Then there’s the resistance movement going on in Spain that may or may not make it to the outpost in time to rescue Ofelia from certain dangers.

Among these little subplots is the main one, whether or not Ofelia can keep her innocence and imagination while being under the guardianship of a person as evil as her adoptive father, played impeccably by Sergi López. The role channels the villain with qualities of Ralph Fiennes’ Amon Goeth in Schindler’s List. He is simply scary because he can be the nicest man in the world one moment and then is able to commit human atrocities the next. He looks down upon others with a cocky disposition, as if others aren’t as good as him simply because of his military standing. When he is in battle, he simply walks around as if it’s a waste of his time while spouting off to others that the only decent way for a human to die is in a gunfight.

Ofelia may be able to easily take on overly large frogs, humongous fawns or multi-colored Tinkerbelle looking things in her fairy tale, but whether she can survive the wrath of this truly heinous individual while still managing to keep the qualities that make her a child is essentially what makes her so appealing and becomes the film’s greatest selling point.

Watching Pan’s Labyrinth creates the sense that what is being put on screen is like a fairy tale for adults. It’s not as cheesey as the stereotypical fairy tale, and as far as it having a clear moral is up to each individual viewer. However, it is safe to say that for the majority of people who see the movie, the experience will be the same. It will bring back the feeling of what it was like to be read a bed time story that grabbed a hold of them and didn’t let go. The only difference in this case, is that it won’t be putting you to sleep anytime soon.