The Lost World

To follow “Pan’s Labyrinth” is to walk in the shoes of a girl named Ofelia (Ivana Baquero). She and her pregnant mother (Ariadna Gil) have recently moved in with Captain Vidal (Sergi López), a Fascist leader who resides amidst of a foreboding forest. Vidal is a menacing and formidable man, whose mission is to defeat rebels who are hiding in the woods. Meanwhile, Ofelia has her own mission to pursue, as she interacts with magical woodland creatures. The imaginative bookworm is led believed she’s the long-lost princess of the underground. In order to reclaim her throne, she must complete three perilous tasks to prove her royal worth. Will Ofelia fail or prevail?

“Pan’s Labyrinth” took me by surprise. I was ready to be blindsided by the visuals, because I assume that’s what the hype is all about. Lo and behold – its fantasy element is no more than a hook. But still, what a magical and dark world the movie displays. The fairy tale story, inspired by Alice in Wonderland and “The Wizard of Oz,” is fascinating to follow as we’re introduced to creatures like the gangly Fawn, obese and yucky toad, and the monster which attacks Ofelia with hand-eye coordination. I have a bit of a quibble though with the young actress Baquero. She seems so stiff sometimes. This movie would have been emotionally better if she was as powerfully effective as Keisha Castle-Hughes in “Whale Rider.”

Outside the fantasy realm, the movie excels even more with the grisly scenes involving Captain Vidal, who truly deliver the movie’s scares. His tendencies are so violent that he’s practically scary by just standing. This role could’ve been easily ruined by excessive sneers, but Sergi López turns his character to be one of the best villains of the year. Story-wise, I was truly impressed with Del Toro, who’s cunning enough to harness two kinds of fears into this movie. There’s the superficial fear which concerns supernatural forces or monsters. Then there’s the realistic fear, where the monsters turn out to be humans. The juxtaposition of these two fears triggers our inner childs and adult selves simultaneously. When the fantasy and the real world converge towards the end, it does so in unexpected ways.

I think the movie’s unpredictability also contributes to its success. The movie reminded me of “The Night of the Hunter” where the story seems so familiar but it develops so strangely, you’re left pondering as to where the movie will take you. I entered “Pan’s Labyrinth” without a clue as how to anticipate the journey. With the film’s hyped approval, I didn’t know if I was destined to be overjoyed or disappointed. I later learn this kind of mental preparation was wrong. In “Pan’s Labyrinth,” it’s not about the destination; it’s all about getting lost in the experience. And when you’re lost, fear comes with the territory.

Grade: A

Ivana Baquero, Sergi López, Maribel Verdú, Ariadna Gil, Doug Jones, Álex Angulo, Roger Casamajor, and César Vea
Screenplay by
Guillermo del Toro
Directed by
Guillermo del Toro
Rated R for graphic violence and some language