|Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
Starring: Ivana Baquero, Sergi Lopez, Ariadna Gil, Doug Jones
Director: Guillermo del Toro
It’s not every day you see a film so rich in presentation that it leaves you absolutely speechless, but Guillermo del Toro’s fantasy-horror flick, “Pan’s Labyrinth,” is so visually stunning that it’s impossible to look away; even when someone is getting their face smashed in with a wine bottle or their cheek sliced in half with a paring knife. And as you can probably discern from the above comment, this is strictly for adults only. Don’t let the subject matter fool you – “Pan’s Labyrinth” may resemble a children’s fable, but it’s more like a sick and twisted version of “The Chronicles of Narnia” as directed by Tim Burton. Better yet, it's like watching “Alice in Wonderland” while tripping on LSD.
Set during the violent aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, the story begins as the young Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) is sent to live with her pregnant mother, Carmen (Ariadna Gil), and her new husband, the sadistic Captain Vidal (Sergi Lopez). While Carmen battles with an unexpected sickness, and Vidal battles with an upsurge of rebel forces, Ofelia goes exploring in the woods where she comes across a stone labyrinth. It’s here that she meets the devilish faun, Pan (Doug Jones), who explains to Ofelia that she is the lost princess of a spectacular kingdom. Desperate to escape from her current situation, Ofelia is given three dangerous tasks to complete before she can return home, all of which must be done before the next full moon. Ofelia accepts, and her adventure begins.
Of course, it’s not much of an adventure, but rather a disturbing, surrealistic journey that forces the young girl to confront her fears in the real world by first facing off against a series of fantastical creatures. Quite frankly, the young girl comes across some pretty terrifying stuff, including a giant toad, a pale monstrosity that eats little kids (and he’s got the paintings to prove it), a creepy little bug that can morph into an alien-like fairy, and, of course, the not-so-friendly faun for which the film is titled. Curiously enough, the horrible obstacles that appear throughout Ofelia’s fantasy realm are much, much worse than that of the real world from which she’s desperately trying to escape.
del Toro is obviously trying to draw parallels between Ofelia’s vivid imagination and the struggles of growing up during that time, and for the most part, he succeeds. The Mexican-born director (perhaps best known for adapting the cult comic book, “Hellboy”) is one of the generation’s most exciting talents, and it’s nice to see that there are still a few guys in the industry who aren’t afraid of straying from the mainstream. His latest film is not only incredibly unique, but it’s also very courageous. It’s almost as if del Toro had two ideas for a movie, but couldn’t figure out a way to properly develop either story, and so he melded the two together. Fortunately, it works, quite well, actually, to the point that by the end of “Pan’s Labyrinth,” no one really knows whether Ofelia was just imagining all of this or not. It’s an interesting concept, and one that deserves a serious discussion amongst fans of the film, but whatever the answer, one thing’s for sure: the world of make-believe can serve up some pretty scary shit.
Two-Disc Platinum Series DVD Review:
You needn’t look any further than the special edition of “Pan’s Labyrinth” to know exactly how a DVD release should be handled. Expertly produced with the same love and dedication that went into the making of the actual film, the two-disc effort features everything you could ever want to know about Guillermo del Toro’s masterpiece and more. The highlight of the DVD, of course, is the audio commentary with the director. Not only is it remarkably informative, but del Toro comes across as quite the charming fellow, making it that much easier to listen to.
Disc two is where the rest of the extras are housed, with four production featurettes leading the pack. The most prominent of the group is “Pan & the Fairies,” which not only looks at the effects used to bring these creatures to life, but others as well, including the Giant Toad and the Pale Man. The other three featurettes cover less popular topics like cinematography (“The Color and the Shape”), musical score (“The Lullaby”) and mythology (“The Power of Myth”), but they’re all worthy additions. The rest of disc two includes a Director’s Notebook filled with pre-productions notes and sketches (and supplemented with video interviews), storyboard comparisons for four sequences, production galleries and an episode of “The Charlie Rose Show” featuring del Toro, Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu – three of the most influential filmmakers in the industry today.