By Leroy Douresseaux
June 20, 2007 - 23:35
Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
Starring: Ivana Baquero, Sergí López, Maribel Verdú, Doug Jones, Ariadna Gil, Álex Angulo, Manolo Solo, César Vea, and Roger Casamajor
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Guillermo del Toro
PRODUCERS: Álvaro Augustín, Alfonso Cuarón, Bertha Navarro, Guillermo del Toro, and Frida Torresblanco
GENRES: Fantasy, Drama, Historical
RATING: MPAA – R for graphic violence and some language
DISTRIBUTOR: Picturehouse (theatrical); New Line Home Entertainment
Set in post-World War II Spain during the regime of Francisco Franco, El Laberinto del fauno (or Pan’s Labyrinth) is director Guillermo del Toro’s adult fairy tale that blends classic folklore with 20th Century political themes in a manner similar to del Toro’s Spanish Civil War-set The Devil’s Backbone (2001).
Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), a dreamy girl who loves to read fairy tales, finds herself moved to a forest military outpost with her pregnant mother, Carmen (Ariadna Gil), at the behest of her stepfather, Captain Vidal (Sergí López). Ofelia feels powerless and lonely, and except for her mother, makes one new friend, the outpost’s housekeeper, Mercedes (Maribel Verdú).
While exploring the forest, Ofelia stumbles upon a decaying garden labyrinth guarded by a mysterious faun, Pan (Doug Jones). Teasing and enigmatic, he tells Ofelia that she is really the lost Princess Moanna, who rightfully belongs in another world. Pan offers Ofelia a chance to prove herself – three tasks that will prove that her time in the mortal world has not washed away all of her immortality. As difficult as the tasks are, Ofelia must not only face the monsters of magical world, but also the ones in her daily life, especially Vidal and his brutal campaign against a band of anti-Franco rebels who hide in the forest.
Although many directors are called visionary, Guillermo del Toro certainly deserves the label, and I like to think of him as a Latin parallel to director Tim Burton (Beetlejuice, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). His devotion to gothic horror has resulted in dark, dark fantasy films that are both colorful and moody, as well as being filled with daring and innovative imagery.
Pan’s Labyrinth weighs against blind obedience to ideology, and favors devotion to friends and loved ones. It advocates sacrifice in place of unyielding selfishness and cruelty. Del Toro works these themes through the film using two narratives about two worlds. There is Ofelia’s harsh real world where her mother suffers a difficult pregnancy and her stepfather is a monster. The other world is one of the fantasy quest, which one can see as either literal or simply a figment of Ofelia’s vivid imagination. While both narratives may seem unconnected, they come together. One portrays the danger of belief that one’s ideology makes one superior to others and therefore has the power of life and death over them. The other deals with doing something that feels wrong out of desperation for reward – the end justifies the means.
The lovely performances and ingenious production add beauty to this ambitious and successfully executed story. In the end, Pan’s Labyrinth’s ideas do outweigh its grand imagination, and considering the visuals, that’s quite a feat.
2007 Academy Awards: 3 wins for “Best Achievement in Art Direction” (Eugenio Caballero and Pilar Revuelta), “Best Achievement in Cinematographer” (Guillermo Navarro), and “Best Achievement in Makeup” (David Martí and Montse Ribé); 3 nominations for “Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score” (Javier Navarrete), “Best Foreign Language Film of the Year” (Mexico), and “Best Writing, Original Screenplay” (Guillermo del Toro)