Movie: "Pan's Labyrinth"
Year: 2006
Rated: R
Genre: Science Fiction / Fantasy
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Writing credits: Guillermo del Toro

Reviewer: Protoclown
Posted: 10/26/2008

Plot: During the Spanish Civil War, a young girl enters a dark fantasy world to escape the brutal reality offered by her new soldier stepfather.

Review: Pan's Labyrinth is a dark horror fantasy set during the Spanish Civil War, and has all the love and charm you might expect from a story with a brutal war as its backdrop. This is an oldschool Grimm style fairy tale, hopeless and depressing, the kind where the child protagonist is usually made an example of, and things don't necessarily end happily ever after (at least not in my interpretation of the ambiguous ending).

The film is in Spanish with subtitles, so if you don't like to read just don't even bother. Chances are this movie is too smart for you anyway. Guillermo del Toro brings all the visual flair you'd expect from the guy who brought us Hellboy, only this film is way, way prettier. The creature design is most impressive, especially on the freaky creature with the eyes in his hands. I don't know what you call that thing, but it's damn scary looking. Del Toro wisely chose to use make up, prosthetics and puppets in addition to CGI, rather than falling into the "nothing but CGI" trap that plagues so many genre films these days (and leaves them looking like crap).

Doug Jones is a great physical actor as always in the role of the Faun, and I don't know if it's the fact that I don't understand Spanish that made his voice seem more otherworldly and menacing or not, but he's one of the creepiest creatures I've seen in a movie in some time. Why the little girl would ever trust a guy like that is beyond me. There are actually a couple times in the film where the protagonist's actions don't make sense to me (why would you take the food when you were warned not to? WHY??), but then I have to remember, she is a child, and children are often quite stupid.

Unfortunately this film was only in American theaters for about two blinks of an eye, so if you never saw it, you should definitely check it out. Even if the story wasn't engrossing and moving, just the beautiful visuals alone would make it worth the price of admission. It's without a doubt Del Toro's finest work.

Overall rating: WholeWholeWholeWholeHalf
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)

Reader Comments

Reptilus Rex
Oct 30th, 2008, 03:57 AM
I really enjoyed this movie. The entire time I watched it, I was entranced by the storytelling, and how there were essentially two plots happening at once. It's pretty amazing how it all works out, because you see the young girl trying so hard to escape into her own imagination, seeing as she believes that to be the true world (and it may very well be), while she also tries her best to defy and oppose her stepfather, ultimately unfurling into a very interesting, if not sorrowful, ending.
That damn kid
Oct 30th, 2008, 06:54 AM
This movie is too scary for me

My dad liked it though.
The Power of Grayskull
Oct 30th, 2008, 07:00 AM
I loved this movie, and I agree with the review. It's beautiful, yet unsettling at the same time, and it works perfectly. It's interesting, intelligent, and inspiring through to the very last minute - everything a film should be.
Forum Virgin
Oct 30th, 2008, 07:31 AM

This whole movie is open to interpretation, but the sequence with the Pale Man (the monster with eyes in his hands) is one of the more discussed portions. I've heard people say that Ophelia eating the grapes was meant to be a reference to Eve and the Fall, which makes sense. Personally, I think it relates to the film's parallel plots. Basically, whatever happens to Ophelia in the fantasy world then happens to Mercedes, the house servant, in the real world. Remember, Mercedes is caught because she snuck into the storehouse once too often.

What I've never understood is a) how she knew where to find the dagger and b) what significance that has to the rest of the movie. Any ideas?

Oct 30th, 2008, 09:03 AM
This is one of my favourite movies, and I say that as a person who doesn't like horror movies all that much.
The stealer of Pies
Oct 30th, 2008, 09:46 AM
I speak spanish, so maybe I can help you out here. At the end of the movie, the ultimate test the faun gives her is to kill her baby half-brother with said dagger. she refuses and would rather die or be hurt herself then to harm an innocent child. she passes the test. fidning the dagger, from what i understand, is supposed to be one of those fairy tale elements. the way children always know where to go or where to look, but from what i remember the fuan told her where to go. that and she had the fairies helping her out.


this is just one of those gorgeous movies that captures the feeling of a genuine fairytale. the kind where you're supposed to be kind of scared ESPECIALLY the part with the pale man. also, part of the argument for the fantasy elements being real is her stepfather locks her in her room as punishemnt. she talks to the faun and when she's running from the pale man, she draws a door to leave that realm and ends up in a completely different part of her house. how did she get there if the fantasy wasn't real?
Holy Diver
Oct 30th, 2008, 10:19 AM
I always try to get my parents to watch foreign films. Not that I don't try equally hard on getting them to watch American ones, but the stories of a lot of foreign ones interest me nowadays more than their American brethren.Amelie, Ichi The Killer (Not a parent movie, by the by), The Seven Samurai, City of Lost Children, Science of Sleep, etc. And usually they end up liking them but still complain about the subtitles. This movie they watched through and through and loved it. My mom followed the girls ending and my dad followed the "reality" ending.
Forum Virgin
Oct 30th, 2008, 11:24 AM
i chose to go with the fairy tale ending and believe in magic and fairies based on this: when the servant goes to save the little girl, she finds an empty room with an open "door" drawn on the wall. i like to think that what happens to her later is simply the only way she can pass from this world to the better world permanently.
is hopped up on goofballs
Oct 30th, 2008, 12:59 PM
This movie is both fantastic and brutal at the same time. Great flick...
Sympathizes with the foo'
Oct 30th, 2008, 01:01 PM
I wish I had watched this in the theater, if only to see the reactions from all those horrified soccer moms who were expecting this to be a delightful little fantasy film for their Disneyfied spawn.
Oct 30th, 2008, 02:28 PM
I was lucky enough to have a very foreign/independent oriented theater in town, and went with some of my boyfriend's friends. I loooooved it, while they griped the whole time just because they didn't realize it was subtitled. PAH!
Jason's a Furry! Run!
Oct 30th, 2008, 04:36 PM
A great film, easily one of the best of the last few years. Full of some dark magic, a great fairy tale, an excellent villain in both the 'real' world (Captain Vidal, who's definitely one of the more evil bad guys out there) and the 'not-so-real' world (The Pale Man... *shudders*), and a haunting narrative (though I interpret the ending as a happy one).

Also, not sure if this was brought up yet: Doug Jones did indeed learn a good amount of Spanish for all his roles (roles which he did a great job in, as always), and did say all his lines. But that's not his voice in the final picture, they over-dubbed him (though his actually saying all the lines made the dubbing process a lot simpler to do).
Forgets Passwords Easily
Oct 30th, 2008, 11:28 PM
I've watched this movie twice in Spanish classes, and it is AMAZING. I personally thought Ophelia should have stabbed the fucking pale man with the dagger before he was awake, because then she could have eaten as much food as she wanted.
Forum Virgin
Oct 31st, 2008, 03:29 AM

SunnyD: Here's what I meant: the book Ophelia got from the faun clearly shows the dagger in the middle door. When she's in the Pale Man's chamber, the faeries point to the middle door. But ultimately, she unlocks the left door instead, which seems to be the correct choice. Maybe I'm overthinking it, but I always thought that there had to be some reference there.

Del Toro himself said that he accepts the fairy tale ending, for the same reason that many of the commenters mentioned (the chalk door). Killjoy that I am, I must point out that we never actually see Ophelia escape via the door. There may well be another passage that we aren't seeing. Also, the fairy tale ending doesn't make sense to me because she sees her father, mother and brother, even though her brother is very much alive. Of course, I've always been partial to bittersweet endings.

Ba dum dum dum dum
Oct 31st, 2008, 10:15 AM
The films ending is certainly open to be read one way or the other which is a beauty of the presentation. I'd contend that there really is no right answer to the question.

to KillSmiley: I've accounted for her brothers presence simply by the fact that time becomes meaningless after the fairty tale turn at the end.

Personally, when I first watched it, I cried during the end, but still took the fairy tale interpretation as what it read to me. While debate will never bring a conclusion to it, it's a movie that certainly needs to be talked about and discussed.

AND WATCHED! It's the kind of movie I reccomend to anyone, so long as they don't mind subtitles. Either you'll appreciate the visual direction, the brilliant storytelling, or both.
The best...around
Oct 31st, 2008, 12:29 PM
I totally disagree with the move not being moving or engrossing. If the last 30 minutes doesn't evoke any emotion out of you, I'm not sure what's wrong. Beautiful and emotional ending. All of the scenes with El Capitán were brutal and tense as well. Outstanding movie.
I'm baaaaccckkk
Oct 31st, 2008, 02:41 PM
Relaxing Dragon said it right; one of the best movies to come out in years.
taco loving zombie
Nov 1st, 2008, 02:53 PM
damn i forgot to get the dvd of this flick and i buy every del toro moviei'm getting it tomorrow
Former Virgin
Nov 1st, 2008, 06:11 PM
My wife rented this movie thinking it would be along the same lines as Harry Potter. After the first brutal murder she realized how wrong she was.
I found this movie to be quite clever and visually amazing.
Nov 2nd, 2008, 06:26 AM
I've been meaning to pick this up on dvd.
Dirty Birdy
Nov 3rd, 2008, 03:20 PM
My wife and I saw this in the theater and bought the dvd. Brilliant.
Retardedly Handsome
Nov 4th, 2008, 10:06 AM

Don't tell me girlfriend my dog barfed in her shoe this morning but I blamed it on her cat.

*End spoiler*
Forum Virgin
Nov 4th, 2008, 10:46 PM
Has anyone here seen Del Toro's The Devil's Backbone? I actually prefer it to Labyrinth. Plus, if you've seen Backbone, one particular scene in Labyrinth is much more meaningful. It's not as pretty a film as Pan's Labyrinth, but I think The Devil's Backbone is scarier and more morally interesting and ambiguous.
1.21 Gigawatts!!!
Nov 6th, 2008, 01:19 PM
*** SPOILERS ***

While the fairy-tale aspect of the film seems to be the one most chosen, I view it as purely imagination on the fact of the girl. It first begins with the insect that she believes to be a fairy. The creature only turned into more of a fairy-like creature when shown a picture of it. The fairies friends (who did not see the picture) are immediately shown to be in that state. While it could be debating that the fairy was incognito, it gives the question as to whether it was in the girls’ imagination.

Also, with the mandrake root… Ofelia was the only one that saw it move and hear it scream. While it was a freaky coincidence that the mother died as soon as the mandrake was burned, I think it may be due more to stress. The same goes for the door, as Ofelia seemed to be the only one that could make it magic.

Next is the fact that when Captain Vidal caught up with Ofelia in the end, he saw she was talking to herself. Also, the secret passage way that closed for Vidal seemed to be open once more. While the faun could have just been hidden from different people, only making himself known to the people of his world, it gives to the part on the imagination again.

In the final scene when she is reunited with her mother, it appeared that she was alive in the real world at the same time and the scene ended when she died. I think a lot of her trying to become a princess spawned from wanting to be accepted and escaping the life with Captain Vidal. This can be evident in the fact that even though she fails her second (and debatably third) mission, new exceptions are made to make her feel like she belongs.

Finally, there is the symbolism of the tasks in parallel to the housekeeper Mercedes. The key from the first mission can be represented by the “only key” held by Mercedes. The knife could be represented by the knife used on Captain Vidal. Also, the sacrifice could be the fact that she had to selflessly serve Captain Vidal and family when she was truly for the mercenaries.

Nov 6th, 2008, 10:45 PM
I love this film. For me, it firmly cemented del Toro as one of my favorite directors.
Costume Junkie
Nov 9th, 2008, 11:10 AM
If you've watched this movie on DVD, you must check out the special features, particularly the extra stories that are told via pictures [like a story or comic book]. This offers a lot of backstory to the fairytale aspect, particularly the significance of the dagger to the Pale Man and the origin of the Toad.
Nov 14th, 2008, 06:25 AM
This was an excellent movie for sure, one I think I need to go watch again. But it does kind of kill me how no matter what you say about a film's captivating story, dynamic characters, lush visuals and overall enjoyable experience that the fact that its subtitled just instantly voids any interest for some people. I just don't really see subtitles as a huge deterrent from the movie. I normally put subtitles on anyways because I can't ever hear what people are saying.
Forum Virgin
Nov 22nd, 2008, 10:37 AM
I'll probably make some of you jealous, but our dubbing industry up here is pretty strong thanks to the hundreds of foreign (mostly American) movies that need translating, so we have it dubbed in French. Awesome.
Forum Virgin
Apr 27th, 2009, 03:12 PM
ok so i really loved this movie

i'm also incidentally a fan of the whole "child escaping into imagination" plot, which was done just as well in Paper House and Tideland (albeit in completely different ways)

i had the privilege of seeing this movie in the theater and it blew me away

and i think the eyeball guy was called the pale man. that may have been my favorite part of the movie but it's hard to say
Forum Virgin
Apr 27th, 2009, 03:15 PM
i also just want to add, for some reason when i saw the previews i thought this was going to be a children's movie

it absolutely was not. see the part where the hunter gets his face smashed by a bottle, and the part where the guy (whose name escapes me, it's been a long time since i saw it) gets his cheek cut wide open. that also happened to be one of the most impressive effects in the film, at least to me. i've seen violence and gore in countless movies but that was surprising, in that "how did they do that" kind of way