Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
Guillermo del Toro claims making this movie almost destroyed him. He lost 45 pounds during production, pouring all of his talent, his time, and his soul into seeing it come to life. To say it was worth it is a criminal understatement.
Pan's Labyrinth tells the story of Ofelia, a young girl who moves to her stepfather's military post in the middle of the Spanish countryside a few years after the Spanish Civil War – 1944. There she encounters a faun, who gives her a quest. From then on, we are immersed in Ofelia's two different worlds: the brutal one of Franco's Spain, and the scary, but beautiful, fairy tale world of the faun.
The brilliance of del Toro's film comes from one place: He keeps it simple. Following the classic fairy tale model, the protagonist has a quest to fulfill; the quest has three parts, each progressively harder. All of the characters fit very standard archetypes – no twists or turns here. But the simplicity creates an emotional resonance so profound that it's almost impossible to resist.
But classic fairy tales are often scary, and Pan's Labyrinth is no exception. It's violent and bloody, and it's in these moments that del Toro really shines. The aesthetic that he's been honing in The Devil's Backbone, Cronos, and Hellboy presents itself in peak form through characters like the Faun, the Toad, and the Pale Man. But none of those is as scary as Captain Vidal, Ofelia's stepfather, confirming what we all know deep inside: The worst monsters of all don't live under our beds, or in our nightmares; they walk beside us in the real world – monsters of flesh and blood.
Aug. 17-18, Paramount: Saturday, 3:55pm; Sunday, 2pm & 6:10pm