Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth

Posted By on Wed, Jan 17, 2007 at 12:00 AM

The term "fairy tale" is chronically overused by film critics, frequently to describe something delicate, ethereal and sometimes syrupy. With this grim yet achingly beautiful fable, director Guillermo del Toro reminds us that fairy tales are a nasty business, filled with nightmare visions that haunt and delight equally, sending an electric tingle down our spines and into our darkest inner corners.

This remarkable film spins a yarn about a little girl trapped between a dream world of ghouls and real-life monsters during the Spanish Civil War, and it works remarkably well, simultaneously enchanting and horrifying with almost every frame.

Amazing young actress Ivana Baquero plays Ofelia, the 11-year-old daughter of Carmen (Ariadna Gil), who has recently wed the gallant but cruel Captain Vidal (Sergi Lopez). She joins him at a creaky old mill converted into a command center from which Franco's forces hunt for rebels hidden in the woods. The forest also harbors strange and magical creatures, foremost a freaky faun (Doug Jones), who tells Ofelia she might be the reincarnated soul of a princess who can reunite with her lonely father if she just completes a few tasks. Those tasks involve lush fantasy sequences loaded with an astounding menagerie of creatures, both vicious and benign, including a giant frog, a root that comes alive and a dragonfly that transforms into a fluttering pixie.

Back in reality, the truly terrifying captain is becoming increasingly unstable, torturing prisoners, abusing underlings and showing growing contempt for the mother of his unborn son.

Ofelia fears her baby brother's arrival. And as the camera dives down through the belly to show the fetus floating peacefully in a golden sea, Ofelia begs him not to harm her mother from within.

Such tranquil moments are offset by brutal ones — the bloodshed is painful and shocking but never exploitive; it serves the story's harsh themes.

Known for his stunning visuals in exciting genre vehicles like Hellboy and Chronos, del Toro throws everything he's got at screen with a realist style that's rich and unbelievably imaginative. Its vision resembles Tim Burton's at his best, or what Peter Jackson did in Heavenly Creatures.

Indeed Pan's Labyrinth is a masterwork, the sort of passionate and alive filmmaking that does what movies should — infiltrate your dreams.


Opens Friday, Jan. 19, at the Main Art Theatre (118 N. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-263-2111).

Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to


We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.

Read the Digital Print Issue

March 3, 2021

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit

© 2021 Detroit Metro Times - Contact Us

Website powered by Foundation