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Pan's Labyrinth A Great Foreign Language Film
This particular film has shown that spanish story tellers and directors have a lot to share with the international film community. Pan's Labyrinth also known as "El Laberinto del Fauno" in Spanish, has a very well written story about a young girl "Ofelia" who lives a fantasy about becoming a princess and finding her true father.
While it sounds like the perfect story for "children" the plot turns darker a few minutes in the movie. Ofelia's mother is pregnant and she has complications which make her feel extremely sick.
She is now living with Captain Vidal, who during the post-civil war period viciously hunts rebels in Spain.
Captain Vidal is in fact the villain of the story who kills people who are against his ideals, one of the scenes at the beginning of the film is specially brutal and definitively not suitable for children. The only trace of humanity this villain has, surfaces when he talks about his son. He treats his wife and step daughter as if they were strangers, so the relationship between them is not very good.
Ofelia, who's the main character of the story has great imagination which allows her to escape into a fantasy world every time an imaginary "fairy" visits her. During her first visit to a labyrinth near her home, she meets Pan (a faun-like Greek God) who lets Ofelia know that she is the daughter of a King who's been waiting for her, but in order to meet her father she has to complete several tests.
One of the tests involved getting a key from an overgrown toad who explodes after she tricks him into eating some magical stones; at the same time this happens, Captain Vidal's servants and his personal doctor are working on a plan to help the rebels, provide them with food and medical supplies. The second test involves using the key to recover a dagger from a dangerous place which is guarded by a terrifying creature, this test is explained to her by Pan who offers Ofelia a "mandrake root" which is suppose to help her mother through her birth complications, but unfortunately, she dies after she gives birth to her son.
Ofelia then heads towards this place and retrieves the dagger but not without first tasting a few grapes (which was specially prohibited by the Faun), at this point the guardian creature awakens and kills two of the fairies which were with Ofelia, who tried to warn her and protect her against this creature.
When she explains the accident to the Faun, he gets mad and disappears. Meanwhile, Captain Vidal captures one of the rebels and tortures him so bad that the doctor has no other option but to kill the prisoner due to the gravity of his wounds. At this point the Captain realizes that the doctor had helped the rebel by killing, so he gets killed as well. After several hardships, the Faun decides to forgive Ofelia and explains the third and last test. She is now required to take her baby brother with her to Pan's Labyrinth.
When she finally gets a hold of his little brother, the Captain who is very protective of his son, discovers that Ofelia is trying to kidnap the baby so he goes after her without realizing he had been drugged by Ofelia. The rebels attacked his domain at the same time but he had no intentions of helping his soldiers, he just wanted his son back. After entering the labyrinth Ofelia learns that the third tests involves killing her baby brother in order to meet her father again, she completely refuses and the Faun disappears, this is when the Captain reaches her takes the baby and shoots her. He was later on killed by the rebels.
The ending is bitter-sweet since right before Ofelia died she meets with her parents and the Faun who explained the purpose of the third test, which was intended to test her capacity to risk her own life in order to protect an innocent. Since she did exactly that she was able to meet her parents and become a princess, but in the real world she died.
This movie is without a doubt one of the best recent foreign films which portrays a fantasy world meant to be seen, analyzed and enjoyed by adults, hence the MPAA's R-rating.
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