“Pan's Labyrinth” (“El Laberinto del Fauno”) is a Spanish-language fantasy film from 2006, set in 1944 amidst the darkest days of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship, that follows a young girl named Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) as she travels alongside her mother to the rural home of her new stepfather: the cruel and sadistic Captain Vidal (Sergi López).
During the nighttime, Ofelia is visited by a fairy that leads her to an underground labyrinth, where they encounter a faun that proceeds to explain to Ofelia how she is the true reincarnation of Princess Moanna, and is destined to return to her rightful place on the throne of the underworld. The faun bequeaths a book upon Ofelia which spells out three daunting challenges within the underworld that she must complete, in order to gain immortality and return to her true home.
Interweaving Ofelia’s magical plight with her step-father’s brutal military campaign against Republican rebels ensconced throughout the surrounding region, the film balances majestic fantasy with savage warfare and tense thriller elements to utterly sublime perfection. Ofelia’s encounters within the underworld are dream-like and riveting, replete with moments of heightened danger, intrigue and horror—delivering a full-bodied adult fairy tale to the audience.
With “Pan’s Labyrinth” writer/director Guillermo Del Toro (“Hellboy”, “The Shape of Water”) delivers his true magnum opus: a visually magnificent, awe-inspiring and emotionally enthralling cinematic invention, roundly considered one of the very best films of the 21st Century altogether—and certainly Del Toro’s finest hour. It’s a historically imaginative milestone and the pinnacle of a magnificent and illustrious career.
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