Guillermo del Toro’s vivid fantasy, as seen through the eyes of a young girl and set in contrast to the bloody endgame of the Spanish Civil War, is a modern masterpiece of gothic horror and one of cinema’s greatest fairytales.
In Francoist Spain, an imaginative young girl Ofélia (Ivana Baquero) travels reluctantly with her pregnant mother (Ariadna Gil) to live at the military outpost of her new stepfather - Captain Vidal (Sergi López), a sadist hell-bent on ridding the countryside of rebel forces. When Ofélia discovers a magical labyrinth behind the family home, she flees into it, seeking refuge from the terrors of the conflict, but finds this new subterranean world turns out to harbour its own kind of threats. Within she encounters all manner of creatures, benevolent and otherwise, including Pan - a grotesque faun who challenges her with three tasks which he claims will reveal her true identity.
In creating a dream world that was highly informed by the real one, Del Toro delivered a vivid depiction of the monstrosities of war infiltrating a child’s imagination and threatening the innocence of youth. And with it elevated himself into one of cinema's leading fabulists.