« OVERLORD | Main | 300 »


Childhood Fantasies
By Cole Smithey


"Pan’s Labyrinth" is set at the end of World War II when the Spanish resistance still had a fighting chance against Franco’s regime if allied support arrived in time. In discussing the leftist political themes of his films ("The Devil’s Backbone" and "Pan’s Labyrinth") gothic horror maestro Guillermo del Toro responds by condemning what is considered "normal" because, "normal creates inadequacy immediately." The transplanted Mexican director embraces abnormality and moral ambiguity in "Pan’s Labyrinth," a film he wrote and directed as a deeply personal treatise on the defense mechanisms of a child dealing with war and death. It is a surreal and dark fairytale about resistance and sacrifice from the point of view of a resourceful young child.

Ofelia (played with immeasurable grace by Ivana Baquero) is uprooted with her ailing pregnant mother Carmen (Ariadna Gil) during Franco's 1944 postwar Spain to go live with Ofelia’s stepfather Captain Vidal (Sergi Lopez) of Spain’s Civil Guard. Mother and daughter arrive at an abandoned rural mill that Vidal has converted into a military headquarters to oppose the local "maquis" freedom fighters. Ofelia momentarily escapes the farm’s oppressive ambience while exploring an old garden labyrinth where she meets a peculiar faun (Doug Jones) who takes over as mentor and assigns Ofelia three tasks to prove her royalty as a princess. Ofelia's dark fantasies of fairies and monsters are matched by the savage hostilities incited by Captain Vidal’s obsessive reign of power. The once hideous but friendly faun gradually becomes beautiful as Ofelia fulfills his commands of obtaining a key from a repulsive toad, visiting a pale monster with eyeballs in the palms of his hands at a banquet from which she must not eat, and releasing the blood of an innocent.

The Special Features on this 2-disc set are so lavish that you could easily spend a rainy day and a night pouring over them. On the first disc is an audio commentary by Guillermo del Toro. The articulate and passionate director gives generous descriptions of his inspirations for creating the story, and gives colorful anecdotes about his process, including minutiae about camera angles, color considerations and overall intentions. For budding filmmakers or appreciative fans, del Toro’s evocative narration provides great insight into the mind of master filmmaker.

The second disc is made up of several making-of featurettes. "The Power of Myth" is a fourteen-minute discussion with del Toro talking about the movie’s origin in fairy tales, not the least of which is "Little Red Riding Hood."

"Pan and the Fairies" is an in-depth look at the visual effects and make-up designs that were created specifically for the movie. There’s plenty of behind-the-scenes material displaying the inner workings of Doug Jones’ beautiful costumes. This is one featurette you could watch several times without getting bored.

"The Color and the Shape" is a brief featurette about the movie’s color palette, and "The Lullaby" provides a look into the development of the film’s haunting musical motif.

The "Director’s Notebook" segment is a compilation of excised footage and an interactive storybook with brief clips and a storyboard gallery.

Most fascinating is a full episode of "The Charlie Rose Show" with Guillermo del Toro, Alejandro González Iñárritu ("Babel") and Alfonso Cuarón ("Children of Men"). Regarded as the most original minds working in cinema today, the three directors prove to be kindred spirits playing on the same team of creating vital cinema on an international scale.

Aspect ratio is 1.85:1, with sound processed in Dolby Digital 5.1 EX, 2.0 Surround and DTS-ES 6.1. (Movie: A / DVD features: A) (New Line)

July 3, 2007 in Foreign | Permalink