I saw "Pan's Labyrinth" last night with Stephen Shearsby in Newton. It is a fascinating movie and I would highly recommend it.
For me the first surprise was that it was in Spanish and subtitled in English. I knew it was a Spanish film, but I kind of expected it to be dubbed into English. Nevertheless it gave me the chance to try and figure out what they were saying rather than reading the subtitles. Unfortunately my Spanish is not very good, so I only managed to really understand the greetings and the occasional word here or there.
The story itself is about Ofelia, a young girl living during the Spanish civil war in 1944, who has just gone with her pregnant mother to live with her new stepfather. As a bloody fascist civil war is taking place around her, Ofelia retreats into her fairy tales. Guillermo del Toro does a fantastic job at making these fantasies real and juxtaposing them against the violence surrounding her. It looks so real in fact its hard to tell where or when he has hasn't used special effects.
The only bit I didn't fancy was some of the violence. There are only a couple of scenes that made me a bit squeamish, but it was never over done. Actually the sounds of gunshots in the film were a strange experience. They weren't the usual nice Hollywood gunshot sound, but they were loud and sharp and almost made you jump. Like the fairy tales the violence in Pan's Labyrinth felt very real, much more confronting than a lot of other movies.
Overall Pan's Labyrinth is a great film. Possibly the best I've seen in the last 12 months. I'd most definitely watch it again at the cinema (anyone want to go?) and/or buy the DVD. You do the same.