Written & Directed by Guillermo del Toro
This had been sitting around in my roommates room just waiting for me to watch it and I’m glad I finally did. It didn’t rock my world, but I had a good time with it. At it’s basis, this is a fairytale, but it is not like any fairytale I have ever seen. It is set in Fascist Spain during World War II. A young girl travels with her mother to her new step-father’s place in the country. It bears mentioning that this new step-father is a Captain in the army and an overall horrible person. While en route, the little girl, Ofelia, encounters a strange bug that turns out to be a fairy. By following this fairy she is entered into a strange world with strange creatures and strange tasks that she must complete to return to this land to be a princess once again. Based on that simple description, one would think it is a standard fairy tale, but it is not.
The real world around her is just as turbulent as the wonderland she is trying to return to. The violence, and graphic nature of it is what shocked me the most. There is plenty of cringe worthy scenes and shots that includes knives and blood and other various things. What del Toro has created is an utterly original and twisted adult fantasy. The film works best, I found, when we spend time with the faun and the other creatures of the alternate world. These are the scenes that are truly soaring filmmaking. The imagination is in full force from both a creative stand-point and the viewpoint of the audience. The sets and decorations are astounding to look at, as is much of the film.
The problems I had with the film are few, but they are present. There were a few instances where I didn’t buy the real world action. I will always be on board for any fantasy or fantasy world, but when you make a film like this, I need to be convinced that what is happening in the real world is real. There were one or two things that seemed off to me about paths the characters took. As I said, the film was beautiful, great to look at, but it also bears mentioning that this beat out Chivo and Children of Men for Best Cinematography that year, something I don’t agree with, but I loved looking at this film too.
When all is said and done, I liked the film. It was something different, something I haven’t seen before; a vision that was genuine and well crafted by del Toro and his fellow collaborators. Another thing, before I forget, is the score. The score was fantastic too. It wasn’t too intrusive, but was there for all the right times and hit all the right chords so to speak. It wasn’t completely up my alley and didn’t always hit, but overall an enjoyable experience.