(Review originally written at 11 November 2007)

The movie was not as fantasy-filled or imaginative as I had first anticipated. This movie was always being marketed as an adult fairytale, set in a totally imaginative world, with lots of odd but beautiful looking characters. But basically the main character only visits the fairytale-like world on 3 occasions during the movie and the number of characters within the world is actually very limited. I understand the marketing approach and it was not like I was disappointed or missed anything, but just know what to expect when watching this movie. It's more a story of fascist Spain of 1944, through the eyes of a child, who seeks refugee in her own fantasy, from the evil world and events and characters around her but above all the movie gets still set mostly in the 'real world'.

The movie knows to create a nice and credible mix between the real world events and the fantasy world of Ofelia. Sometimes the two worlds even mix, which also makes the viewer unsure of how much of it is actually real and what is the fantasy of Ofelia.

And for people who still think this is a children's movie, which are still quite a lot; Believe me, it's not! No people get shot trough the head or are being tortured graphical in a children's movie. This movie is the definition of an adult fairytale. A genre that is not completely new by the way, but will bring many more movies in the near future I hope, after the big success of this movie.

Yes, the movie is truly a beautiful looking with, with some good camera-work, production design, make-up effects and its special effects. The movie has the smooth look you would normally expect from a big Hollywood production. But Guillermo del Toro of course is no stranger to this world and type of film-making and has more than enough experience, resources and contacts to make a movie such as this one in his native language as well. It's not hard to see why this movie won 3 Oscars for Best Achievement in Art Direction, Best Achievement in Cinematography and Best Achievement in Makeup. The movie was actually being nominated for 3 more Oscars and it deserved to win at least 2 more of them. The music really deserved a win! A real crime Gustavo Santaolalla beat Javier Navarrete over this one.

But the movie might have the same smoothness of a big Hollywood production, it's everything but a standard Hollywood movie, with all of the formulaic events. The movie is creative in its directing and story-telling. It's makes sure that everything happens as a surprise and you won't ever know or guess what would happen in the next scene or the ending, since this is such an original and far from formulaic movie. So also don't expect a big happy cheerful ending, although some people might still regard the ending is an happy one. It at least is a satisfying one that suits the movie most perfectly imaginable.

This is an big project and therefor an heavy burden for the young Ivana Baquero to carry the movie. But she does it and she does it well. Also Sergi López knows to impress, among others.

Perhaps not all of the elements are handled well within in the movie and there are some missed opportunities here and there in my opinion, such as a better portrayal of the relationship between Ofelia and Capitán Vidal. Small things like this prevents this movie to me from being an absolute masterpiece or must-see but nevertheless the movie of course remains more than a great one and most definitely also a very creatively original one.


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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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