El Laberinto del Fauno

Pan’s LabyrinthFantasy, War, Drama

Learners’ Notes

  • Suitable for learners at the beginner-intermediate level
  • Suitable for those looking to absorb Spanish as spoken in Spain rather than Latin America
  • Hardly any violence or nudity making it suitable for learners of most age-groups despite its R rating
  • Easy-to-follow storyline and simplistic grammar and vocabulary
  • Exposure to life in Spain during Franco’s dictatorship; good for those looking for some historical context
brief synopsis

Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro returns to the phantasmagorical cinema that defined such early fare as Cronos and The Devil’s Backbone with this haunting fantasy-drama set in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War and detailing the strange journeys of an imaginative young girl who may be the mythical princess of an underground kingdom. Her mother, Carmen (Ariadna Gil), recently remarried to sadistic army captain Vidal (Sergi Lpez) and soon to bear the cruel military man’s child, shy young Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) is forced to entertain herself as her recently-formed family settles into their new home nestled deep in the Spanish countryside. As Ofelia’s bed-ridden mother lies immobilized in anticipation of her forthcoming child and her high-ranking stepfather remains determined to fulfill the orders of General Francisco Franco to crush a nearby guerilla uprising, the young girl soon ventures into an elaborate stone labyrinth presided over by the mythical faun Pan (Doug Jones). Convinced by Pan that she is the lost princess of legend and that in order to return to her underground home she must complete a trio of life-threatening tasks, Ofelia sets out to reclaim her kingdom and return to her grieving father as Vidal’s housekeeper Mercedes (Maribel Verd) and doctor (Alex Angulo) plot secretly on the surface to keep the revolution alive.

For those who have an affinity to period war dramas, this movie offers a very vivid insight into the lives of the average Spaniards in Franco’s Spain. Rife with corruption and atrocities, the common man’s struggle for respite has been very closely portrayed in this film despite the main theme being that of a little girl’s exotic fantasies.