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Pan's Labyrinth

By Harry Forbes
Catholic News Service

NEW YORK (CNS) -- 2006 was already a banner year for Mexican filmmakers with exemplary year-end releases from Alfonso Cuaron ("Children of Men") and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu ("Babel").

And now comes Guillermo Del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth" (Picturehouse), a cinematically stunning adult tale set in 1944 Spain, centering on Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), an unhappy 11-year-old girl.

She finds emotional escape in a magical maze -- either real or imagined -- overseen by a faun (Doug Jones) who is attended by fairies who resemble dragonflies and who tells her she is a princess and must accomplish three tasks to regain her rightful throne.

The experience helps her cope with the horrors of the marriage of her ailing pregnant mother, Carmen (Ariadna Gil), to a vicious fascist officer, Capt. Vidal (Sergei Lopez), assigned to root out resistance fighters who are secretly aided by his housekeeper, Mercedes (Maribel Verdu) -- whose brother Pedro (Roger Casamajor) is among them -- and his compassionate physician (Alex Angulo).

Though the main story outline is familiar in its classic structure, it is given new life by Del Toro's deft balancing of the harsh real world with the girl's mysterious parallel universe which sheds light on the former, and there are poignant elements of sacrifice and redemption.

Despite its youthful heroine, the film -- wondrous and fanciful as so much of it is -- is not for the youngsters.

The film, with subtitles, contains rough and crude language and some profanity, several brutally violent episodes, torture, several murders, a nongraphic amputation, a mercy killing, occult plot aspects and a graphic childbirth scene. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

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Forbes is director of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. More reviews are available online at www.usccb.org/movies.


Copyright (c) 2007 Catholic News Service/USCCB. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed.
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