Growing up, sensitive children often create a fantasy world to cope with upsetting situations at home or school; I know I did..
Set in 1944, in the Spain of Franco's Fascists, Ofelia and her pregnant mother come to join Ofelia's new stepfather, the Captain, at his forest camp, where he is determined to root out the partisans hiding in the woods. Ofelia, a dreamy bookworm, immediately realises that the captain cares nothing for her or her mother; just the prospect of having a son.
Two storylines unfold. One is Ofelia's real life, where her sadistic stepfather promotes a reign of terror, not only among the partisans he captures but in his own household; and her inner fantasy, where a faun reveals that she is a princess from an underground realm, returned to claim her royal birthright.
He takes her into a real labyrinth on the camp property, and gives her three magical tasks to perform so she can return to her throne. But even her mystical world (echoing Brothers Grimm fairy tales) is shadowy: the "fairies" who visit her are a bit sinister, and the Faun can be stern as well as kind.
Is Ofelia's magical world real, or is it her way of tuning out the wartime horrors that threaten her beloved mother, her unborn brother and even her own life? This intelligent, beautiful movie lets you decide for yourself.
The director, Benicio del Toro, will be the perfect director for "The Hobbit",
having such a deft touch with fantasy and inner worlds.
Pan's Labyrinth almost defies description. It's shocking , sad and disturbing; but at the same time a testament to human courage, friendship, love and the ability of the human spirit to remain intact.