El Laberinto del Fauno

Last night I finally got to see ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’. I’d been keen to see it ever since release, but no cinema around here showed it at the time. It did get an airing at Leicester’s Phoenix Arts, but I only found out about it at the very same time they were having their last screening, just before Christmas.

So, I was delighted to find out that the local Vue had it on, one night only, and I went down to see it with a colleague from work. I’m guessing that it didn’t get a wider release at the time due to it being a Spanish movie with subtitles - the major cinema chains just want to get bums on seats at the end of the day. With it picking up five Oscar nominations (3 of which it won) maybe somebody thought it might be worth showing.

I had been attracted to the movie in the first place by seeing some stills and the trailer (during one of those rare occasions I bother to go and see what trailers are awaiting me in Apple’s Front Row). The design and artistry had really pulled me in and I think the movie thoroughly deserved its Oscar for Best Art Direction.

But I’m jumping the gun a little. The movie, set in Spain 1944, tells the grim story of Ofelia, a young girl who’s head is filled with fairy stories and who gets uprooted from her familiar surroundings when her mother marries Captain Vidal, an officer in Franco’s army. It very quickly becomes clear that Vidal is a totally brutal and ruthless man who has no interest in being a stepfather to Ofelia and who’s only concern is for his own child, being carried by Ofelia’s mother at the start of the film.

Ofelia’s refuge from the brutality that surrounds her is her interest in fairy stories, and the old ruins which sit alongside the mill that Captain Vidal is using as his headquarters whilst hunting out Maquis guerrillas in the surrounding hills and forests.

As the ‘real world’ atrocities unfold, Ofelia enters the ruins and encounters a faun who gives her a series of tasks she must complete before the next full moon. These tasks plunge Ofelia into the Underworld, encountering strange and dangerous creatures and the viewer is kept wondering about the true motives of the faun right up to the very closing scenes of the film.

I don’t want to reveal anything more about the plot as to do so would be to spoil your enjoyment of the movie. I can say that it richly deserves its ‘15′ rating, there are scenes of torture and murder which make the film quite disturbing at times. As ever with scenes of this kind, it’s what you don’t see that really chills you to the pit of your stomach. Well, that and the knowledge that there were, are and alas always will be those in the world who will treat people in this way.

If you get the chance to see this movie then DO, but don’t go along expecting a cheery fairy tale, it is anything but. I found it a very refreshing change from the usual, run of the mill rubbish that the major studios seem to churn out ad infinitum.


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