I went to this movie expecting a slightly dark fantasy flick. You know, like The Neverending Story meets The Dark Crystal. What I got was Irreversible. I have seen snuff films with less violence.
The movie takes place in 1944 in fascist Spain. The movie's main character, an imaginative little girl named Ofelia, is the step-daughter of a very cruel army captain. The movie starts with Ofelia and her pregnant mother moving onto the Captain's post, which is located in a dreamy, unnamed, deciduous forest in the Spanish countryside. While wandering in the forest, Ofelia encounters a fairy, who leads her into a fantastic world of faun's, ogres, and secrets. In between Ofelia's encounters with the fantasy world (which are surprisingly few and far between) her mother is falling ill, and her mercilessly cruel stepfather is trying to quash the guerrilla warfare in the countryside by using the most brutal of practices.
I walked out of the theatre thinking I had just seen one and half movies. The stepfather gets more screen-time than the main character, and almost all of his scenes involve intense violence. This movie focused more on the harshness of warfare rather than cherishing of wonderment. I felt like I saw a whole war movie, than half of a dark fantasy movie.
I guess the key to enjoying this movie is knowing what to expect. It is well written, directed, and had excellent acting. However, it is more of a war movie than a fantasy film. It is not, repeat NOT, a film for kids. In fact, anyone, at any age, who has a weak stomach should stay away from this film. But if you like good film-making, and you don't cringe at violence not unlike the worst scenes from Saw, then knock yourself out. Oh, and surprisingly, most people where unaware that the movie foreign, so it has subtitles. Now you know.