Scott Hardie: “It ruled.”
Fair warning to the interested: Pan's Labyrinth isn't a fantasy film with beautiful imagery, it's a grueling, graphically violent war movie that happens to include some fantasy elements and beautiful imagery. Much like director Guillermo del Toro's excellent earlier film The Devil's Backbone – he considers this a sequel in spirit – it's an allegory for the Spanish civil war that juxtaposes the cruel realities of fascism against the optimistic fantasies of the opposition (in both cases children), who are portrayed as noble but ill-equipped to stop their own oppression. What del Toro wants to say about the failed Republican resistance to Franco, and about good's resistance of evil in general, is said by the blossoming flowers shown at the beginning and end of Pan's Labyrinth, a striking visual device from a director who delights in presenting unexpected visions without warning. You never know where del Toro will place his camera or what trick of lighting or makeup he'll employ next, but his techniques always inspire a reaction in the audience, and he uses it to make great points. You'll be alternatively scared and stirred by del Toro's shocking effects, but if you understand his symbolism, you'll be touched on an even deeper level.