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Pan's Labyrinth

"In darkness, there can be light. In misery, there can be beauty. In death, there can be life..." Such is the mantra of this beautifully-crafted film, directed by the very talented Guillermo del Toro. Pan's Labyrinth is, quite simply, one of the greatest films ever made in history of cinema. I usually look down upon giving such accolades to films this recent, but this film absolutely deserves every bit of praise it gets. It's amazing how strong and enchanting the 'two worlds' of this film are, each providing a set of rules and a sense of astonishment. The creativity behind this work is incredible, and rightly so considering the author had been working on the idea as early as 1993.

The film's set in 1944 Spain, as freedom fighters are still battling it out to overthrow Franco during a time of global unrest. While these political WWII elements are important to the film, our protagonist has very little to do with any of the ensuing politics and revolution. Ofelia, our heroine, is currently going with her pregnant mother to move in with her new stepfather, Captain Vidal - a rigid military man (and a sadist at that). Vidal is a feared man amongst his peers, and is infamous for his cruelty, vileness, and coldness - it's for these reasons, and the fact that Vidal acts so harshly to her mother, that Ofelia hates the captain. However, upon shortly arriving at the captain's mill, Ofelia finds herself enraptured with mystical creatures and fantastic beings which seem to have hidden themselves from the "real" world. Fairies, fauns, ancestral legends - it's the tales of which Ofelia has always loved. However, in worlds as conflicting and dark as these, there can sometimes be little room for anything except tragedy.

I can't say enough about how beautiful this film is. Whether we're speaking of the film's themes, characters, visuals, score, or simplicity, everything about Pan's Labyrinth is just so incredibly and wonderfully beautiful. There's a joy and sadness in this film that can only be expressed through the most mature, and simple, of ways. In fact, I love breathtakingly simple this film is. When it comes to older audiences, we tend to want something morally ambiguous and 'grown-up'. We don't want the old stories of "good guys vs. bad guys', we want large shades of gray to fill in whatever tale we please. It's this film, however, that always reminds me of how beautiful simplicity and child-like fantasy really is. This fantasy is never brooding or spiteful, but loving and willing to share its heart so openly. It's emotional freedom, really.

I could go on and on about the layers of theme behind this film as well, as there are certainly many different messages being sent through this beautifully-crafted work. There's the theme of obedience, for example, which often asks the viewer what it means to be obedient. Does obedience mean obeying out of love, or does it mean obeying out of fealty or necessity? Or, when is the point where obedience becomes deluded unquestioning? It's fascinating to think that these questions only make up one of the many themes of Pan's Labyrinth. There's the theme of reality-vs-fantasy, the thematic use of threes, degradation, faith, politics, grown-up fairy tales - there are literally layers of ideas contained in this film. You could watch this film so many times and come out with something you hadn't noticed before, and it's that attention to detail that really shows del Toro's love for his work.

The characters are also quite fascinating and likable, though that latter trait probably doesn't include the cruel Captain Vidal. They're all unique in their own interesting way, and I just loved every moment of interaction, reflection, and thought of these characters. Ofelia, the Faun, Mercedes, Vidal, and even the silent characters such as the Pale Man are all so completely interesting. Everything about them is incredibly imaginative, well-constructed, and - again - so completely enchanting.

As if these aspects weren't enough, the film's visuals are just a treat to look at. Fantastic lenses, great lighting, and even the symbolic use of color make the film stand out in its amazing quality. The backgrounds, those in both the real and fantasy world, look absolutely stunning. From the captain's mill in WWII-era Spain to the dark, yet incredibly beautiful, labyrinth, Pan's Labyrinth is just as much a visual experience as it is an emotional one.

The score for this film is just as beautiful as the rest of the movie as well, with the signature lullaby perfectly capturing the essence of the film . It's dark and sullen, yet very beautiful and loving at the same time.

As for the pacing, it's completely perfect. Never is there a moment of padding or a moment of rush - everything in this film, down to the last detail, has been purposefully placed within the film for the director's purpose. It's literally perfect, just like the rest of the film.

Pan's Labyrinth is a perfect film. Thought-provoking themes, fantastic characters, breathtaking visuals, a wonderful score - one could go on endlessly about this film. It's dark, beautiful, bold, loving, sincere, brutal, and I love every minute of it.





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