“El Laberinto del Fauno” (2006)

Also known as Pan’s Labyrinth, this movie by Guillermo del Toro (yes, the guy who did Hellboy) is something truly extraordinary. Critics everywhere have raved about the movie, and I am here to tell you that it is not without cause. Simply put, this movie has all the aspects of a masterful film, as defined by me — a character and story you can relate to, a theme that stays in your mind after the movie is over, and many layers that can be later examined (hardly an official list of required elements, I know). By blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, this movie will capture your thoughts for days after you see it. And while most of the critical focus is on the fantasy itself, the movie has subtle underlying themes introduced by various metaphors, for those who wish to find it.

Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), who is brilliantly acted, is a young girl who is troubled by the horrors of Spain in its Civil War, circa 1944. Her widowed mother (Ariadna Gil) is now married to and harboring the baby of Captain Vidal (Sergi López), who might be one of the most brutal villains to appear on the silver screen in quite some time. Beyond all the horror of reality, Ofelia engages in a fantasy where a faun wants her to perform three tasks in order to reclaim her status as Princess of the Underworld. The two obvious stand-outs are Ofelia and Captain Vidal’s characters for their wonderful on-screen performances; however, one cannot forget the clearly talented Doug Jones who plays the Faun (and also the creepy Pale Man). He was the only English-speaking member of the crew, and as such had to learn the Spanish lines of both Ofelia and his character to move his lips at the right moments. An act of true dedication, del Toro himself labeled Jones as a perfectionist.

It is easy to dismiss this movie as over-hyped. After all, every critic and his dog is calling this movie one of the best movies of all time. As skeptical as you are, you have to realize at one point… maybe they were all right? Let me be perfectly clear… Pan’s Labyrinth (which I prefer to call El Laberinto del Fauno because it is less misleading with regard to a certain Greek myth) is an exceptional movie. It has something for everyone. Whether you care to dissect its multiple themes and plot layers or whether you simply want to be mystified by a wonderful fantasy, this movie will give you what you set out to see. I went in expecting a lot after hearing praise from plenty of trusted friends and colleagues; even with the hype, I enjoyed it immensely. I suspect the perfection of this movie will only show in its second and third viewing, which I plan to do very soon. Do yourself a favor and see this movie in the theater (unfortunately it is not widespread); for one reason or another you will love it.

RATING: 10 / 10