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Simon K Jones
Force: 27955 | Joined: 1st Jan 2002 | Posts: 11683
- Title: Pan's Labyrinth
- Director: Guillermo Del Toro
- Cast: Ivana Baquero, Sergi López, Doug Jones
- Running time: 119 minutes
- Cert: 15 (UK)
- Release: Out now
Guillermo Del Toro has been operating on the fringes of mainstream approval for years now, finding a cult following for his lesser known films while receiving mixed reponses for his more ‘Hollywood’ projects. Pan’s Labyrinth finally marked the crossover, with Del Toro winning over both critics and audiences with his remarkable fairy tale.
Set in the aftermath of the Spanish civil war, Pan’s Labyrinth sees a crippled and broken Spain through the eyes of young Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), who has been unwisely placed in the care of brutal fascist Capitán Vidal (Sergi López). Withdrawing from the horrors of reality, Ofelia finds herself in a fantasy world where she is instructed by the machiavellian faun Pan (Doug Jones) to embark upon three dangerous trials.
It’s important to realise that we’re not dealing with Disney fairy tales here, or Narnia-style through-the-wardrobe frolicking; this is dark, brutal and often sadistic, fluctuating between the shocking realities of post-war Spain and the relative comfort of a child’s fantasy while ratcheting up the unease as the story moves inexorably towards its tragic climax. Every scene is captivating, as the film explores the depravity of fascism and the strength of human resolve in the face oppression.
A universally superb cast brings the characters vividly to life. Baquero is a natural and convincing child actress and she carries the movie effortlessly but it is López and Jones that are most memorable, crafting characters both fascinating and disturbing in equal measure. López’s Vidal believes utterly in his incontrovertible will, thinking nothing of executing innocent civilians and relishing his fascist power. Jones, meanwhile, delivers two unique characters: that of the mischievous faun at the centre of Ofelia’s fantasy and a shocking creature known as the Pale Man. Jones’ characters are a triumph of performance and make-up effects and are some of the most original creations since Giger’s first alien.
The movie’s themes and characters linger in the mind long after the credits roll. Ultimately the message is clear: no matter what monsters hide in our dreams and fantasies, the most abhorrent and frightening atrocities will always be found in real life. Harrowing and, at times, difficult to watch, Pan’s Labyrinth is nevertheless infused with a glimmer of hope and should not be missed.
Following the superb Blade II and Hellboy DVDs, Pan’s Labyrinth finally sees Del Toro’s Spanish language output get the treatment it deserves. The 2-disc set comes complete with a commentary by Del Toro and an extensive collection of extra features on the second disc.
The extras focus specifically on the design of the film, from the elaborate sets to the various creatures. One featurette follows Doug Jones as he becomes covered in prosthetics for the faun, surprisingly declaring that it was the most comfortable suit he’d ever worn. Of particular interest to the compositors among you will be the integration of greenscreen elements with the traditional make-up, enabling the Pale Man to be unnaturally emaciated and the faun to walk on multi-jointed legs.
The commentary is fantastic, with Del Toro barely able to squeeze in all his information. Here is a man obsessed with and in total control of his craft, leaving nothing to chance. Whether discussing the technical achievements or the thematic undercurrents, Del Toro is a highly intelligent and engaging host, clearly eager to enlighten others regarding the filmmaking process.
While some more input from the other actors would have been welcome in either the featurettes or on another commentary, this is nevertheless a fantastic collection of extras, particularly for anybody interested in compositing or make-up effects. One of the best films of 2006 and likely to be one of the best DVDs of 2007.