pan's labyrinth | guillermo del toro | ivana baquero | ariadna gil | sergi lopez | drama | mexico | fantasy | war | spain | creature | monster | monsters | maribel verdu | doug jones | alex angulo | creatures | manolo solo | cesar vea | roger casamajor
Film: Pan’s Labyrinth (El laberinto del fauno)
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Writer: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Ivana Baquero, Ariadna Gil and Sergi López
This film was one that I heard about it, but it took me until after I graduated from college to actually see. I had seen a couple of writer/director Guillermo del Toro films previous, so I had an idea what I was expecting coming in. After that first viewing, I was literall blown away if I’m honest. This is now my third time seeing this, with the previous two times in the theater, which is an experience. The synopsis is in the Falangist Spain of 1944, the bookish young stepdaughter of a sadistic army officer escapes into an eerie, but captivating fantasy world.
We begin with a girl, she has blood coming out of her nose and it is going in reverse. She is Ivana Baquero. We then get voice over as the same girl is fleeing from an underground city. We learn that she was princess there and fled to Earth, but then passed away. Her father the king is staying alive until her soul comes back.
It then shift to Ofelia (Baquero) in the back of a car with her mother Carmen (Ariadna Gil). She is pregnant and married to captain Vidal (Sergi López). We learn that Spain just ended a civil war and the fascist regime won. He’s having her come to the castle that is their base of operations as they hunt the remaining rebels. He believes that his son should be born where his father is.
Ofelia loves fairy tales. On their journey to the castle, her mother becomes ill and needs to get out for air. While this is happening, Ofelia finds a stone of an eye. Nearby she finds a statue that it is missing from and puts it back. From the statue’s mouth comes an insect. Ofelia thinks it is a fairy and tells her mother so.
They’re met by Vidal, who is annoyed they’re 15 minutes late. He pressures Carmen to get into a wheelchair, stating that she shouldn’t be putting any unneeded stress on herself. Ofelia walks away from the vehicles, chasing after the insect she saw earlier.. It leads her to a gate of a stone structure. The woman that runs the household operations of the base is Mercedes (Maribel Verdú). She tells Ofelia that this is an old structure and to not go into it.
Mother and daughter share a room, knowing that this new place might spook Ofelia. A doctor visits Carmen, Dr. Ferreiro (Álex Angulo). He gives her some medicine to help her sleep. In the night, Ofelia is visited by the insect again. At first she doesn’t see it and it scares her. She shows a picture to it and it changes into an actual fairy. It has her follow it to the labyrinth. In the center, she goes down stairs to find a creature known as a Fauno (Doug Jones). I’m assuming he is actually Pan and that a fauno is like a Satyr in Greek mythoogy. He tells her that she is a princess of a magical kingdom. The full moon is coming so if she wants to go back, she needs to complete three tasks. A book is given to her that will tell her what to do. Is what Ofelia is seeing real or just her way of coping with the things she’s going through?
This is now my third time seeing this and I’ve definitely lucked out. My last two viewings have been in the theater on 35mm film. It is quite the experience. The first thing I have to say about the film is that del Toro can make some beautiful films. The castle is such an old and amazing setting. It is isolated and there are rebels around it. This is in stark contrast with the mythical places that Ofelia goes to that look so real. The creatures he creates are so interesting and I just want to learn more about them. I also love the allegory about what she is doing as she copes with the new environment that she is in. Her imagination definitely runs away with her, but things that she does are actually happening in the world around her as well. It definitely bends belief and understanding.
I also love the story of Vidal striving for greatness and trying to live up to his father, who was a much more honorable man than him. I get the idea that his father was hard on him and that he never really did live up what the lofty goals. I almost get the idea that is why he is such an evil character, that he is going to be great no matter what.
This is also interesting in tackling the ideas of the Spanish Civil War. It didn’t click with me until this last viewing that it was during World War II. I knew that Spain kind of sided with Germany and Italy, but it makes sense. Their country was in turmoil so they really couldn’t participate. It is also powerful that Mercedes and Dr. Ferreiro are putting their lives on the line, when though we know how evil the man they’re living with is. There is a tough scene to watch where Vidal actually tortures a soldier to get information.
Now I do have to say, for a film that runs almost 2 hours, it doesn’t feel like it. I never get bored. It gives us the back-story, introduces us to the characters and then just goes on its way. There are such magical things that Ofelia sees and even though you know that it’s probably not real, she thinks it is. I like thought hat the things she is doing actually have real world implications. The ending is sad, but I think it is fitting for the type of film we are getting here of a dark fairy tale.
The acting is something that really helps it as well. Baquero is really good for being a child actress. I feel myself wanting to protect her and wishing she would stop doing these things that hurt her mother. She is bringing unwanted attention on herself and ultimately those around her. She did a really good job. López is also really good. He is such a villain that you want him to lose. I think if you can get a reaction out of me, you are doing something right and that is exactly what he did. Verdú, Gil and Angulo are all really solid as well. It is interesting that Verdú is kind of the third main character, which I love the duality that she has with Vidal. He underestimates her in a misogynistic way and that storyline plays out very well. Shout out to Jones who is such a great body actor as the Fauno and Pale Man. The rest of the cast rounded out the film for what is needed as well.
Something I needed to cover here is the effects. There are some really good practical effects here, but the surprising thing is the CGI. It’s is quite amazing that his film is from 2006 and it goes CGI, but it looks so real. From the insects to things that we see in the fantasy world even to what happens with Vidal’s face. They all so real and it does show that if you know what you’re doing and have the movie, you can really use CGI to your advantage. The film is also shot beautifully.
The last thing to cover would be the soundtrack. For the most part it fits for the scenes for what is needed. They went more orchestral which actually helps with bringing the feeling of this being a dark fairy tale. I also wanted to comment that there is almost a ‘theme song’. It turns out that it is from Mercedes and it is a nursery rhyme. She doesn’t remember the words, but hums the tune. I like it though as it is both comforting and haunting.
Now with that said, this is an amazing film. I like that del Toro can suck me in with a dark fairy that is showing the effects of what the Spanish Civil War and this young girl’s plight. It definitely is a modern one and I really like the allegories we are seeing. The pacing of this really helps to keep it interesting as it never gets boring in it’s two hour running time. The acting really helps as well as it is good across the board. The effects are something else that even though it uses a lot of CGI, it doesn’t bother me as it looks amazing. Soundtrack for the film definitely fits for what is needed and I love the tune that is hummed for sure. I will warn you, this film is from Mexico and Spain, so I had to watch it with subtitles on. If that’s an issue, avoid this. If not though, if you’ve never seen this film I highly recommend it for horror and non-horror fans alike.
My Rating: 10 out of 10