Movie Review by Anu Mukherjee
Starring: Sergi López, Maribel Verdú, Ivana Baquero, Doug Jones, Alex Angulo
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Set in 1944, and the end of the Civil War, Ofelia is forced to move to northern Spain with her mother in preparation for the birth of her new brother.
Her tyrannical stepfather, Capitan Vidal, and his troops are based in an old rambling farmhouse surrounded by heavy woodland. Vidal is determined to wipe out the maquis (guerrillas) that are opposing Franco’s regime and are based in the hills around the farm.
Ofelia, a dreamer with a vivid imagination, hates both her new life and her stepfather. She finds companionship with Mercedes, Vidal’s servant, the only person who cares for her in her ailing mother’s absence.
On her first day, she stumbles across a labyrinth where she meets Pan – the hideous guardian of the underworld. He sets her 3 tasks to complete before the full moon, promising her entrance as princess into the magical underworld if she succeeds.
From this point on, the movie follows two distinct threads which are interwoven so cleverly you move flawlessly between fantasy and reality.
We follow the story of Vidal, a true monster, in his determination to wipe out the maquis at any cost. His coldness towards his wife and stepdaughter and his love of torture make him a truly chilling character. Mercedes, while being the faithful servant, is actually helping the maquis – adding to the suspense.
Ofelia is devoted in her mission to complete the 3 tasks and enter the magical kingdom. She gives a fantastic performance as the fearless child who will overcome all obstacles to escape her new life.
Visually, you are transported to another world – a world of soldiers, guerrillas and strange pale monsters from another dimension.
The main characters give outstanding performances leading to an emotionally charged masterpiece which has something for everyone.