Pan's Labyrinth, directed by Guillermo del Toro 2006.
"He who thinks he knows the ending of things when he is just beginning them, is either extremely wise or extremely foolish. Either way he is an unhappy man for his has put a knife in the heart of wonder." -Tad Williams
Perhaps because what I've seen from Hellboy didn't impress me, I was more than a little surprised by how overwhelmingly good this film is. There are so many elements to this film that are done right I'll point out the one little nit-picky complaint I could come up with as I left the theater.
The premise is deceptively simple. A girl, in war torn Spain, starts to experience the phenomena of having fairy tales come to life. Is it real or imagined? Thankfully the film and script go way beyond this simple premise intertwining to distinctly parallel story lines that are seperate yet distinctly connected. For the sake of clarity I'll refer to the second story line as Mercedes's story.
Mercedes's story is starkly 'real' in relation to the heavily fantastical elements involved with Ofelia. The violence in particular scenes will be sure to shock some...The Chronicles of Narnia this is not. My complaint is with the length and pacing of this particular story line.
There is a point in the story where it appears Ofelia will never see any fairies or Pan ever again, the narrative switches back to Mercedes and stays with her for an inordinate amount of time. There is no doubt in my mind that Ofelia is the central character of this film and it is odd that in a film so well crafted del Torro would choose to abandon his main character for such a lengthy period of time. I do not mean to suggest that Mercedes's story becomes boring at this point, which couldn't be any further from the truth, but to point out that you begin to wonder if there was any real point to all the fantastical elements of the film.
And that's it, my one complaint. Everything else I could write would be simple gushy blather, ruining some of the surprises of the film in the process. You could spend another 10 minutes 'listening' to me go on about how I loved the soundtrack, cinematography, acting etc. or you could be on your way to the theater to see this film, I'd rather you opted for the latter.
I will say this though...it becomes increasingly rare these days for a film to actually surprise me. I found myself constantly trying to figure out the multitude of different possibilities a particular scene could play out and inveriably Toro would have it unfold in a way I hadn't even thought of....and so I found myself thinking of the quote from Tad Williams. You could go into this film with preconceived notions of what it will be, but if any film cries out for you to recapture that sense of wonder, I'd argue it's this one.
Rating: (This film should be in the Best Picture category for the Oscars)