This was a movie that was on my wish list for quite some time. But the chance that I finally got to watch it was in a rather unexpected way. There is a film festival going on in my college which started today. It has a wonderful ensemble of movies that I am very excited to watch and the first one happened to be ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ . I do not know how well I have interpreted the film or how far my thoughts on this film are right, but let me know what you think in the comments below.
Title: El laberinto del fauno (which loosely translates to ‘The Labyrinth Of the Faun’)
Language : Spanish
Country of origin: Spain, Mexico
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Written by: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Sergi López , Maribel Verdú, Ivana Baquero, Doug Jones , Ariadna Gil, Álex Angulo
Narrated by: Pablo Aden
Music: Javier Navarette
Released: 27 May 2006
Duration: 119 minutes
The story starts with the narrations of the story of Princess Moanna. She is the daughter of the king of the underworld. One day she strays into the world of the mortals but is blinded by the sunlight resulting in a loss of her memory and death. Her father believes that she will return one day and builds labyrinths or magic portals in different places through which she can return .
Post the civil war in Spain, our protagonist Ofelia with her ill and pregnant mother travel to meet Captain Vidal, her new stepfather. He is in charge charge of a military camp to hunt down rebels that are a threat for the current situation in Spain. Ofelia loves fairy tales and things they are true, just like any little girl her age will. She even tells stories to her unborn sibling.
One day, a large stick insect appears who she believes is a fairy. She follows it and is lead into an underground Labyrinth. There she meets a magical Faun who believes she is the reincarnation of Princess Moanna. In order to prove that she is the princess and not a mere mortal, the Faun gives her three tasks, each more dangerous than the last, which has to be completed before the full moon with the help of a book that tells the future.
As she sets on the journey to complete the tasks, she realises things are not as easy as a fairytale. It involves her brutal stepfather, rebels, spies and her ailing mother .
When I first read the geist of the story I was under this assumption that it was a child’s tale. More or less a fairy tale. But was I wrong.
Although the movie had the elements of a fairy tale, it was dark and eerie . It showed the brutalities of a group of soldiers fighting against some even more aggressive rebels who were supported by spies within the camp. At the same time, it was about motherly love, the innocence of a child and how some things were just too much for a child to comprehend.
Ivana Baquero did an amazing job as the protagonist. Despite being the character of a child, she had this aura of maturity surrounding her which made it feel even lesser like a fairy tale.
Captain Vidal was a strong villain in this story. I wouldn’t call him evil though. Rather, I would call him a man who firmly believed his principles and acted according to that, just that he was meticulous and brutal as he did so. He was emotionless. The only thing that kept him going was his aim at driving the rebels to their end.
A character that was subtle and had an even more stronger resolve than the captain was Mercedes , the maid in the camp where Ofelia stays and also the spy that works for the rebels right under the captains nose. Ofelia’s mother, another of the female characters was weak. But Mercedes despite being a woman was not even the slightest of a “damsel in distress ” , even if it meant her death.
If you think this film is a fairy tale, it’s not. If you think this is a military kind of war film, it’s not. I think it’s a balance of both. If the film just had the story of the captain against the rebels, it would have been too dark and eerie. If it was just a fairy tale it would have been just that and nothing more. But the film being the balance of both, makes it so much better.
Another thing is that without the child, making a war like atmosphere blend with mythical creature like fauns and fairies would be impossible. And the reason is simple. It’s the fact that children can Beleive the most unbeleivable of things and can dream things and try their best for it no matter how much it seems to be impossible to do. For instance, if the Faun were to tell all this to an adult than than a child, the adult would speculate, think it’s not true and try to find the reality. But Ofelia being a child strongly believed the Faun, without the slightest of doubt which is why it made the film so much more of a joy to watch. I mean think about it. As a child we had so many dreams as to who we wanted to be. We never doubted it for a second even if our dreams happen to be something impossible like befriending aliens. But as an adult, how many of us still have that dream, or that resolve?
As the first film in the film festival I thoroughly enjoyed it and I hope that you will too. It was the second Spanish film that I got to watch-and I loved it.
Let me know what you feel in the comments below.