Pan's Labyrinth

Rated R 2007

Literally and figuratively marvelous, a rich, daring mix of fantasy and politics, Pan's Labyrinth begins with a "once upon a time" and then becomes utterly specific. Spain 1944: The civil war is over, and Franco's Falangists have long since subjugated the country. The Maquis, the last remnants of Republican resistance, are fighting a rearguard action in the forested northern hills. Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) has been relocated there, to a remote military base commanded by her new stepfather, a brutal autocrat. A persistent dragonfly (perhaps the manifestation of her own incipient madness) guides Ofelia from her bedroom to the center of an overgrown garden maze, where she encounters a faun. The faun persuades Ofelia that she is an orphaned princess and assigns the gravely self-contained child a series of magical tasks. Writer-director Guillermo del Toro has mixed the political and the supernatural before, but unlike 2001's The Devil's Backbone (2001), Pan's Labyrinth is not just strongly imagined, but superbly integrated and marvelously fluid. It's also highly resonant. Magic realism leavened with moral seriousness, Pan's Labyrinth is the story of a brave little girl, lost in a world of make-believe -- at once an intuitive anti-fascist and the innocent victim of a monstrous system.

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