Movie Review: Pan’s Labyrinth

A fantastic cross of For Whom the Bell Tolls

bell tolls cover

and The Chronicles of Narnia.


Set in Spain in 1944, the film explores childhood, sacrifice, war, virtue, and civil strife. Unlike the other film I reviewed Flag of Our Fathers, this film has no axe to grind, no point to shove down my throat. Instead it looks at the horror of the world and tries to understand it a little bit better.

The film is about two parallel tales. The first is about a woman who marries a Captain in the Spanish army who is tasked with eliminating some Red revolutionaries who are hiding in the mountains. We follow her struggles, and the struggle between the Reds and the Spanish army. And like all such civil wars, there is blood, there is torture, there is heroism and there is perverted sense of duty on both sides. The second is about a little girl, the daughter of the mother from a first marriage, who is caught in a dream world of her own where she is a Princess of a magical fairy kingdom and the only way to return to her kingdom is to perform three tasks set by Pan. The two tales intersect repeatedly and ultimately tragically.

As an aside, I was watching the film, and thinking to myself how tragic the events of the film were. On the one hand, I am supposed to feel sorry for the Reds. On the other hand, I am tempted to thank God that butchers like the Captain existed to protect us from the Reds. In the end, I decided, that the misguided faith in the communist ideal destroyed what was best in both worlds. Both the Reds and the Fascists were idealists, visionaries, and patriots. And of the two, the Reds were the most misguided believing a myth that they hoped would somehow make the world a better place. All the Reds did was destroy their country, destroy themselves, and inspire the other side to extremes of violence. And if the last 50 years of history are any guide, of the two factions, it was for the best that the Reds lost. So not only do you feel sorry for their misguided ambitions, you feel relieved in knowing that they lost because there is no better world at the end of the rainbow.

This is a great film. Of the two films, The Departed, which I have also seen and Pan’s Labyrinth, I would have voted for Pan’s Labyrinth if Scorsese was not involved in The Departed. Perhaps the director of this film will be remembered as the better film that lost the year they decided to give Martin Scorsese the award he deserved for so many of his other films.

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