“I believe there are two ways of writing novels. One is mine, making a sort of musical comedy without music and ignoring real life altogether; the other is going right deep down into life and not caring a damn.” – Sir P.G. Wodehouse.

If Guillermo del Toro could add to that, he would say, mix them both! Pan’s Labyrinth, a 2006 Spanish language film, paints a world where the horrors of a civil war torn 1944 Spain, and the horrors of fantasy of a nine-year-old girl meets. The film begins with the protagonist Ofelia and her pregnant mother, setting off to a hilly forest mill to stay with his stepfather Captain Vidal. In those forests, the imaginative Ophelia discovers fairies and a Faun, who tell her she is a princess of the other world and must complete three tasks to get back to her kingdom.

The film shuttles between the apparent bloody reality of the civil war with dying rebels, sympathetic spies and malignant conspiracies running thick, and the earthy fantasies of Ofelia, which are also not free from their terrors. It soon becomes obvious from the violence and thematic cruelties, that it’s not a family film at all, instead a spine chilling spiritual tale. The way it is told holds you tight to your seat, at times with it’s sheer extravaganza, is indeed rare.

The make-up, especially of the faun, is worthy of a few round of applause. The soundtrack is also fitting the tale that is rolling to its tune. The cinematography and art direction are Academy winners. The pastel fairies, the eyeless ogre, the toad and the faun himself are as they come in our childhood dreams. The subtitles written by del Toro ensure that a lot is not lost in translation. The acting again is par excellence.

I wonder if the worlds of Marquez and Borges had been put on screen, it wouldnt have been too different. Sublime and spontaneous, the movie is worth a watch!

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