I really wanted to go see this film ever since I heard about it, and yer wan at the desk who tried to put me off by saying “you know it is in Spanish with subtitles” didn’t succeed. ;) The story revolves around Ofelia, an 11 year old girl whose mother has married Captain Vidal and is expecting his child. It is 1944, and Vidal is an officer in Franco’s army, hunting down guerillas in the mountains. Vidal is about as far from a nice chap as you can get, and throughout the film his actions are among the most violent and gruesome on screen. He has no humanity, only caring about ridding the world of the guerillas and cleansing Spain so his son can grow up in a new world. Franco has won the war and he intends to show those still fighting what that means, even if he has to kill every last one of them and their sympathisers.
But on the journey to the Captain’s stronghold Ofelia stumbles across a carved stone statue, and crawling out of it, some sort of an insect. She, however, doesn’t see an insect, instead she calls it a fairy, and later when she shows this insect a picture in one of her books the creature transforms in front of her to take on the more usual appearance of a small person with wings.
Ofelia follows this fairy into the nearby ruin of a labyrinth where she meets with Pan, although he never calls himself by that name, merely stating that he is a faun. He tells her that she isn’t really human, but instead is a Princess in an otherworldly kingdom, where her father is waiting for her return. However, in order to prove that she hasn’t become too mortal she must perform 3 tasks and prove herself worthy to return.
Visually this film is just lovely too watch, but there are also plenty of scenes that’ll make you want to look away. It may be a fantasy film but it is for adults, not children. There is plenty of evidence of the darker side of life; death and torture are everywhere. And the plot is just as good as the images on screen. The characters are believable, even the Captain who is irredeemable and totally evil.
The actor playing Ofelia is a real find, totally believable in her role and never even verging towards “annoying kid in film”.
If you get the chance you really should catch this film. It is dark and sinister, full of cruelty and yet strangely whimsical and charming. The music is also great. You can listen to quite a bit of it on the official site.