♦ Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape Of Water comes out in UK cinemas on Valentine’s Day and so Tripwire’s editor-in-chief JOEL MEADOWS will be reviewing every film he has made up to this point. Today it’s the turn of his sixth film, Pan’s Labyrinth, released back in 2006…
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Stars: Ivana Baquero, Sergi López, Maribel Verdú, Doug Jones, Ariadna Gil, Álex Angulo
Exploring similar territory in a way to The Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth, released back in 2006, sees del Toro returning to a Spanish language feature and the subject of the Spanish Civil War. But unlike The Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth is set just after its conclusion in 1944.
Ivana Baquero plays Ofelia, the little girl at the heart of the story, who accompanies her mother Carmen, played by Ariadna Gil, to join her sadistic new husband, army captain Vidal (Sergi Lopez). Ofelia’s real father, a tailor, was killed a few years ago and Carmen has chosen to remarry. Her mother is also pregnant with another child. Ofelia, who feels trapped by her situation, chooses to enter a fantasy world where she meets a faun (Doug Jones with the voice of Pablo Adan) and his faeries. The faun, Pan of the title, informs the little girl that she is the reincarnation of a lost princess and so he sets her a number of tasks to permit her to return to her real world.
Guillermo del Toro is the only film director that could get away with a film like Pan’s Labyrinth. It is a fable and a fairy tale but also a film with a political message too. Where The Devil’s Backbone was a gothic horror story, Pan’s Labyrinth is a touching and emotional fairy story. Baquero is excellent as the alienated Ofelia and the rest of the cast is also very strong indeed. Lopez, who plays the fascistic Franco army captain, brings an impressive level of malice and psychosis to the character. Pan’s Labyrinth is the first del Toro film where we really get to see the brilliance of Doug Jones, who plays the Pale Man that the little girl encounters and the faun. He brings a kind of physicality to the part that Jones has made his onscreen trademark. The faun feels magical yet credible.
The look of the film is also magnificent thanks to the sterling work of his regular collaborator, cinematographer Guillermo Navarro, who takes the same attention to detail whether it’s Spain or the fantasy world that Ofelia visits.
As with many of his films, it is a child who sits at its centre but there is no question that Ofelia is probably the most developed of all of his younger creations. You can see that making Hellboy gave him a few pointers as to how he could carry something like this off.
There is a power and a fluency to the films that he makes in Spanish that somehow seems to be lacking in his English-language work (until The Shape of Water). Pan’s Labyrinth is unsettling, charming and unmistakably Guillermo del Toro. It is also probably his finest film, with an emotional intensity and a unique charm that he hasn’t quite matched since.
Here are the reviews for Days 1-5