Here is a scene from somewhere in the middle.
A child draws a chalk outline on a wall and where she draws appears a door. She steps through and she is in a world where a man sits at a table heavy with food. The man is motionless, long-nailed and his face blank and without eyes - these rest on the plate in front of him like two large berries. Pictures on the wall indicate his unsavoury past-time: killing children - a point reinforced by the pile of children's shoes the child has had to pass when she enters the room.
What happens next is satisfyingly surreal (which of course I cannot tell you for fear of spoiling).
In some ways the laws and prohibitions of this world are familiar from the tales we all grow up hearing: the loaded table of delicious food that must not be eaten; the egg-timer that indicates when the door into this world slams shut; the monsters that wake; the small child that is in danger; even the underground setting is something I have seen before in fairy stories. It is Angela Carteresque and deliciously enticing and disturbing.
But there is another world outside the door too. This is Spain occupied by the fascists and yet it is conspicuously Germanic. Now the pile of shoes beside the giant makes new resonances. Whose shoes? What is the eyeless giant? The soldiers are barbaric, vicious and violent, but also unbearably tragic. In Spain, the film reminded me, the fascists were victorious and until fairly recently this country was ruled by a dictator.
This is what I think the film might be about: the forgotten tragedy of Spain and the heroism of some of its people.
The plot contained all the annoying illogicalities of a fairy tale but were entirely right and necessary because of that. I can't say I enjoyed this film - it was too thought-provoking and tense for that - but it held my attention (rather too well - I was not ready for the violence which comes without warning) and I think it was well-worth seeing. It stays with you for a long time afterwards - haunting you in a way that is not entirely pleasant but somehow cathartic.