In post–Civil War Spain in 1944 (after Francisco Franco has come into power) Ofelia, a young girl who loves fairy tales, travels with her pregnant mother Carmen to meet the harsh Captain Vidal, her new stepfather.
Ofelia discovers a large insect resembling a stick insect which she believes to be a fairy. That night, the insect appears in Ofelia's bedroom, where it changes into a fairy and leads her through the labyrinth. There, she meets the faun, who believes her to be the reincarnation of Princess Moanna and gives her three tasks to complete before the full moon to prove that she is the princess.
As far as fantasy or fairy tale movies go, this film is insanely dark and somewhat depressing. Don't expect a Disney picture.
This is the kind of movie that made me wonder who the intended audience is? The movie is rated R for graphic violence and some language, although the film is in Spanish and subtitled in English. So this is obviously not a kids film, as no kid would have the patience to sit through a subtitled film, and the Spanish Civil war scenes wouldn't much sense to children. However, the mixing of dark fairy tale and violent war makes for a very odd if not incompatible mix that I think that few adults would appreciate. In America, I think that the intended audience would be those who appreciate foreign or "art" films.
Despite this, the movie is compelling. It has interesting characters, not the least of which is the evil Captain Vidal. The movie makes us wonder what is going to happen to these characters. It has a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which shows that it is highly acclaimed by critics, but the tragic ending left me a little confused about what the message of the movie is. The ending gave me the impression that because the world was so harsh, the fairy tale aspects of the story had only been imagined by the girl Ofelia as a kind of escape from reality. I am not sure if this is the correct interpretation.
I think that this movie would have more meaning for those living in Spain, as it deals with their history.
Some movies are just so strange that you are glad that watched them. It is not your typical movie watching experience.