Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

The 2006 film Pan’s Labyrinth, written and directed by Guillermo del Toro, takes place in 1944 Spain in a world where fairy tales come to life. The story focuses on the politics of the town and the fight between opposing ideals, the struggle of watching a family member suffer from illness, and the discovery of a magical world beyond imagination. Ofelia, the main character, must endure dangerous trials as she embarks on her hero’s journey. 

The movie begins with a fairy tale. It tells the story of Princess Moanna, daughter of the king of the underworld. When she leaves the underworld and enters the human realm, the sunlight erases her memory and she dies, though she was previously immortal. Her father, grieving her loss but hopeful it is not final, builds a labyrinth, believing that one day her soul will return to him. 

At this point, the film skips ahead to the year 1944, where Ofelia, played by actress Ivana Baquero, is living with her pregnant mother Carmen. Carmen is very sickly, and the family worries about her health as the pregnancy progresses. The father of the child and Ofelia’s new stepfather, Vidal, is in charge of hunting down rebels to Falangism. When their story begins, Ofelia is on her way to meet him for the first time.

When she arrives at his home, a flying stick-like creature greets her in the yard, leading her to a mysterious stone maze nearby. Ofelia believes it is a fairy, but Vidal’s housekeeper, Mercedes, stops her from going any deeper. Later that night, she sneaks out when the creature appears again and leads her to a faun in the labyrinth that was built by the king in the fairy tale.

The faun, who has the ability to communicate with Ofelia, believes that she is the reincarnation of Princess Moanna. He calls her to the labyrinth because he wants to restore the princess to immortality so that she can be with her father once more. In order to prove to him that she really is who he thinks she is, the faun gives Ofelia three tasks to perform. The story follows the girl as she works to complete these tasks, all while dealing with looming issues at home. Not only is her mother still ill and about to give birth, Vidal’s ruthless hunt for rebels may lead him closer to home than he expects. She must avoid the danger of her tasks while staying wary of how Vidal could destroy everything.

In this tale of love, bravery, adventure, family, and magic, Ofelia must do everything she can to protect the ones she loves while discovering who she may truly be. Every little girl’s dream, she is pulled into a fantasy world in which she is the center of attention. This story mixes fairy tale and reality, and the magical stories it holds unfold on the screen as the impossible comes to life before Ofelia. History and fiction come together perfectly in this film to create something that feels both surreal and rooted in fact.