I’ve been waiting to review this one for a long, long time!
Written By: Guillermo del Toro
Directed By: Guillermo del Toro
Immediately after watching El Laberinto Del Fauno I put the film in my top twenty of all time. That was a rash decision, one that I was given a good amount of grief over. Each time I return to El Laberinto Del Fauno that decision is justified, the film remains a top of the line endeavor. I still get the same feeling of intensity and wonderment that I had in a dark Barrington, Illinois theater back in 2006. It may sound cliche to say it, but my eyes were just as glued to the screen on this viewing as they have been in every other viewing. El Laberinto Del Fauno is an immediate viewing experience, it is a complete viewing experience, it is a great viewing experience.
When I used to talk about El Laberinto Del Fauno most of said talk centered around the ambiguity of the story. Is the fairy tale real or is it all in Ofelia’s head? This time around my wife made an interesting point, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s real or not because it’s real to Ofelia. I still fall in the camp of the fairy tale being a product of Ofelia’s imagination, and my wife agrees, but I was struck by my wife’s words about the fairy tale aspect being real to Ofelia. The fairy tale world is Ofelia’s escape (I’ll get into the nastiness of the fairy tale world further down) from the harshness of the everyday world around her. The fairy tale needs to be real to Ofelia because it is the only way she can truly escape. An easily deconstructed illusion will not serve Ofelia’s purposes, and thus the film constructs a real fairy tale land so that we can feel the same reality that Ofelia does.
One could argue that the fairy tale land Ofelia creates is too harsh, but I don’t see that argument. The world around her is harsh and it only makes sense that her fantasy land escape would be just as harsh. We put what we know into our fairy tales, Ofelia knows brutality and desperation. Those traits inhabit her fairy tale world because that is all she knows, the nastiness of the real world has to be a part of her fantasy creation.
Creation is where Guillermo del Toro most shines in El Laberinto Del Fauno. The obvious path for this thought to go on is the creation of the creatures and the visual style. Those are the strongest aspects of El Laberinto Del Fauno, that is what most people choose to write about when discussing El Laberinto Del Fauno. Senor del Toro creates something else in El Laberinto Del Fauno, he creates atmosphere and texture. He uses his visuals in combination with the score and the voices of actors to create an atmosphere that hits the viewer like a waterfall. From the onset El Laberinto Del Fauno is a movie with some heft to it and the atmosphere is mostly to thank for that heft. The atmosphere is backed up by the texture that Senor del Toro brings to the picture. The violence in El Laberinto Del Fauno is real. When Captain Vidal is stitching up his face I could feel that thread going through my own face. When the thin man demon, or gollum as my wife describes him, is moving I can feel his bones creaking and his skin hanging in the air. I could feel El Laberinto Del Fauno, this is a film with a definite texture about it.
The one area where my wife disagrees with me is in my description of El Laberinto Del Fauno as a horror fantasy. She sees the film as a straight up fantasy or fairy tale. I am of the mind that Senor del Toro is playing on certain horror beats. The man standing ominously in the shadows, the monster under the bed, and the horror of our dreams (I realize no one truly dreams in El Laberinto Del Fauno, but in this case one could substitute Ofelia’s fairy tale land for the world of dreams). These are definite horror elements in my book and Senor del Toro implements them into his film in fine fashion. I agree with my wife, El Laberinto Del Fauno is definitely a fantasy/fairy tale, but I found it to be entrenched in the world of horror as well.
I could write about El Laberinto Del Fauno for days and days, it’s a film that gives me a lot to write about. I barely touched on the score, I didn’t go into any detail about the real world horror aspects or the excellently created real world. There is some tremendous acting in El Laberinto Del Fauno, and so on, and so on. I originally put El Laberinto Del Fauno in my top twenty of all time, and it still resides in that same grouping. My rankings aren’t a reason for you to see the film, but my words of praise should be. El Laberinto Del Fauno is a one of a kind horror fantasy, blending a sense of immediacy with a texture that is omnipresent. El Laberinto Del Fauno is one of the best movies ever made, and it remains a tremendous viewing experience.