It’s dreadful to visit a time and place filled with prevalent violence, deaths and fear.
With a pure and innocent interest in history, getting a glimpse on the world of the Spanish Civil War was part of my reason to see this film. By the end of Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), I was so depressed to believe there was such a time existed in somewhere in the world.
I was just astonished how vividly and convincingly Guillermo Del Toro relives the harshness in the post-Civil War Spain through the eyes of an innocent child. All I knew about the plot before seeing the film was that a young girl named Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) escapes into her own world of fairy tale that seems to offer her the comfort and hope that do not exist in her new reality of a cruel stepfather (Captain Vidal) and battling outdoors. But the film does not limit itself to the young mind of the protagonist; it considerably focuses on the surrounding characters such as Captain Vidal (Sergei López) and a trusted housemaid Mercedes (Maribel Verdú) in order to offer a concreteness of the reality of the bloody battle between Fascists and Republicans, that runs opposite to Ofelia’s fantasy world of a faun, fairies, and the Pale Man. The unspeakable cruelty of the Fascists, represented by the ruthless Captain Vidal, and the undying courage of the Republicans, represented by the wise and graceful Mercedes, bring gravity on the real world Ofelia feebly resists with her childlike fancies.
It has been more than 30 years since Franco died, and I’m really wondering what motivated Guillermo Del Toro to constantly revisit the difficult times of the Spanish Civil War. What lesson or satisfaction did he expect for his audience to derive from such a thorough interrogation on the terror under the tyrannical regime? I can hardly imagine how Spanish people live through such dark memories of their past.
I’m happy to see this film that offers a brilliant interpretation on the relationship between fiction and reality. As an aspiring writer I have always believed that every story must derive from something truthful. In Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo Del Toro offers an extrem, yet very compelling way to show it. But I must admit that I have to play another movie afterwards to lighten the mood…