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Review: Pan's Labyrinth

Posted: Mon, 26th Mar 2007, 1:58pm

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Simon K Jones

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The Details

  • 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

The Movie

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.

The Extras

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.

Posted: Mon, 26th Mar 2007, 3:18pm

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Redhawksrymmer

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Nice stuff, will have to get this on DVD when it's released in Sweden! Great writing and review as always, of course smile
Posted: Mon, 26th Mar 2007, 3:34pm

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petet2

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Another good movie...another one where there's no competition to win the disc. Why do we only get to win the ones that you guys don't want? wink
Posted: Mon, 26th Mar 2007, 4:10pm

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Plainly

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Looks like an awesome movie! I didn't actually read the review - sorry! - cause I don't want to spoil the surprise... But it looks like a good review, so I'm gonna give you a 5/5 on your reviewing skills, Tarn.

Anyways...

Bottomline: I'll have to get the DVD when it releases.
Posted: Mon, 26th Mar 2007, 4:14pm

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Simon K Jones

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petet2 wrote:

Another good movie...another one where there's no competition to win the disc. Why do we only get to win the ones that you guys don't want? wink
Heh. Unfortunately, it's not up to us when we can run a competition. smile And besides, we've done Clerks II and Casino Royale competitions, and we wanted those DVDs too!

I'm hoping to get some more competitions sorted out for you guys soon though, so fingers crossed on that one.

Plainly Canadian wrote:

Looks like an awesome movie! I didn't actually read the review - sorry! - cause I don't want to spoil the surprise...
Good idea, although there's nothing in my review beyond what's in the trailer. I always try to make a point of only writing the general premise, then discussing the film in general without referring to specific plot points. There's nothing more annoying (or pointless) than a review full of spoilers!

Don't forget to come back and read the review after you've seen the film. wink
Posted: Mon, 26th Mar 2007, 4:48pm

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ashman

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The movie is a filmmaking masterpiece by one of the greatest directors of our time. This tackles my top movie at present (Blade Runner) and slams it face down in the dirt. It's beautiful and dark, has the most amazing and captivating cinematography I have ever seen. If the cinematography doesn't cast it's spell on you the story and characters will.

I love it!
Posted: Mon, 26th Mar 2007, 7:33pm

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Axeman

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Not a single mention of the phenomenal score?
Posted: Mon, 26th Mar 2007, 7:51pm

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Simon K Jones

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Another element I would have loved to have mentioned! Basically, there simply isn't enough room in which to praise the movie. I went over my word limit as it is and still felt like I'd barely scratched the surface.
Posted: Mon, 26th Mar 2007, 8:38pm

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Waser

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Waser hold his tongue


It all honesty though I find this picture fascinating:



I'm a huge fan of mixing greenscreen technology in such a way to achieve practical yet impressive results. I liked the faun. Any other movie would have had just a CG body, perhaps with Christopher Lee's head superimposed on it.
Posted: Mon, 26th Mar 2007, 9:07pm

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Simon K Jones

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Yeah, I love the way they did that. Both ingenious and surprisingly simple at the same time. It basically enabled Doug Jones to walk mostly normally, with a clever prosthetic leg behind his own. Very nifty.

I remember when A.I. came out, which had some of the earliest integration of make-up/practical effects with greenscreen, for the robot faces/limbs. Very clever stuff.
Posted: Mon, 26th Mar 2007, 11:46pm

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Videoace123

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Very cool ive never heard of it (im in USA) but im definitely gonna check that movie out!
Posted: Tue, 27th Mar 2007, 2:40pm

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Arkangel D

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This is an awesome movie with really creppy in a good way FX, is cain like the movie "MIRROR MASK" wish is was a really disturbing movie , again in a good way. The mix of Fantasy and Reality is really confusing sometimes cuz it make think "WTH" is going on. But anyway I still havent watch the movie yet, just the previews and some clips. I will recomonded to evr1.
Posted: Tue, 27th Mar 2007, 2:46pm

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Xcession

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What?
Posted: Tue, 27th Mar 2007, 3:56pm

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mercianfilm

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Looks amazing! the cinematography for it looks brilliant, i especially like the idea of the Faun, will look good on the screen, much better than CG