Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
Streams of blood course through Pan’s Labyrinth, but only because of the huge, hard-pumping heart beating within this grim, but unexpectedly hopeful, adult fairytale.
Filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro has always been a meticulous master of the macabre, composing reams of sketches and notes for ornate grotesqueries in his horror films. More invigorating in this 2006 film was his emotional awakening to what lessons could be learned from harsh brutality and how one’s pain propels frantic scrambles for beauty and solace during an indeterminate time on earth.
Soaked in as much soul as crimson gore, Labyrinth washes viewers over with lavish filmmaking, but makes them feel suffering at three levels — the larger world of a nation (fascist 1944 Spain), the personal world of a child (Ivana Baquero) and the supernatural world of magnificently created characters.
Young Ofelia has moved with her mother to the stronghold of Capitan Vidal (Sergi López), a menacing military man whom her mother has married for safety and security. Venturing into nearby woods, Ofelia discovers remnants of a decaying otherworld. Soon, her personal and paranormal fates are irreversibly entwined.
As the real-world tendrils of Vidal’s menace spread to Ofelia, Lopez creates one of the decade’s most horrifyingly full-bore villains — a man whose emotions eroded long ago and who seeks only a male heir in preserving his violent bloodline.
Employing elegance, tension, fright and invention, Pan’s Labyrinth held court with rapture and awe from start to finish, with a resolution solidifying it as the stuff of stories turned legends.