Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth: Astonishing, Riveting, Brilliant

January 19, 2007

From the brilliant mind of Mexican director Guillermo del Toro comes his latest film, Pan's Labyrinth, a Spanish-language adult fairy tale that exudes excellence and vivid imagery in every last frame. Only del Toro's imagination can create such a wonderful mix of dramatic tragedy and fantasy.

In Pan's Labyrinth, young Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) travels with her mother (Ariadna Gil) to a rural area in Northern Spain after the Fascist Generalísimo Francisco Franco ascends to power after World War II. There they meet up with her mother's new husband, the vicious and brutal Capitan Vidal (Sergi López), who is hunting the hillsides around the area for remaining rebels. Ofelia imagines a fairy tale world that she lives in every day as her family and surroundings are engulfed in the Fascist repression and the menacing attitude of the relentless Vidal. In a curious trip to a nearby labyrinth she meets Pan, an intriguing fawn creature who sends Ofelia on three quests to prove she is the princess of the purportedly imaginary kingdom.

The lush visuals are captured perfectly in many scenes with Ivana Baquero during Pan's Labyrinth.

Much of Pan's Labyrinth bleeds, both literally and figuratively, with del Toro's filmmaking expertise. The color, the mood, and the intensity of every scene is vibrant and emotionally striking. This is no children's fairy tale; it's a unique imagining from Guillermo del Toro, who is also behind much of the creature development and who wrote the entire script. Budgets are not an issue for del Toro - his imagination is nearly endless, which plays out beautifully on screen.

All of the characters in the film are played well, and Sergi López's turn as Capitan Vidal stands out as one of the greatest of the year. Vidal is a ruthless madman who nearly kills everyone around him, including his closest friends and his family. Not for one moment does López lose his grasp on his character's intense cruelty and truly deranged mind. Pan and Ofelia cannot go overlooked either. Pan is a costumed role that only Doug Jones can play, like Andy Serkis (King Kong, Lord of the Rings) and his motion-capture roles in the aforementioned films. Twelve-year-old Ivana Baquero gives one of the most captivating, convincing, and emotionally riveting child performances of 2006.

Pan's Labyrinth is a story built on the depth of the characters, not on how much fantasy can be thrown in. All of the scenes are very theatrical in their layout and positioning - this is the key to how del Toro develops each moment. His angles are perfect, allowing each scene to build its characters and play itself out through focus and positioning, an extraordinary technique to truly experience. And although the film is limited to the mill, farmhouse and surrounding hillside, it's very progressive and seemingly expansive. Del Toro chooses his details to point out wisely - much like the oranges in The Godfather.

Sergi López delivers a stern performance as Capitan Vidal in Pan's Labyrinth.

As strong as the imagery is, the film begins to come apart in attempting to build a theme. Where is the moral lesson, where is the encompassing theme at the end? What does it want to emphasize about life once we've reached the finale? This is my only minor issue with what is otherwise an amazing film.

Last Word:
Guillermo del Toro is a visionary director who has taken a vast step in exploring cinema visually. Pan's Labyrinth is a phenomenal film with breathtaking camerawork, character development, and a fairy tale story unlike anything, yet is also full of astonishment. Although hard to truly enjoy because of its dark, violent, and brutal nature, the pure fascination that comes from an experience like Pan's Labyrinth is more than worth your time and money.

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Reader Feedback - 7 Comments


This is the best movie I've ever seen...It was brilliant...a masterpiece....I loved every single moment......

Fani on Jan 20, 2007


I'm trying to find out if when this movie come's out on DVD will it come in english. I saw the movie. I don't read very well and had a very hard time keeping up with the subtitles. It was very frustrating. If the movie comes out in english I will buy it. Please write back and let me know. thanks for your time.

Debbie A. Wilkins on Feb 18, 2007


You know, I'm not sure yet Debbie. I think they're waiting for the Oscars because if it wins all 6 it's nominated for or at least best foreign, then they'll probably put it out in theaters for a little longer. So expect maybe late April or May I'd guess.

Alex Billington on Feb 18, 2007


Oh and, honestly, I don't think it would work in English. I know you have trouble reading subtitles, but honestly, I hate dubbing, and I think something like Pan's Labyrinth would be completely ruined if it was dubbed. Just my take. I doubt they'll dub it.

Alex Billington on Feb 18, 2007


The problem with Pan's labyrinth is that it became so popular and not available in many small cities, that its pirated versions are all over the internet. I read in forums people from India just download it and watch it, and say it's great film. A friend of mine told me he watched it last night, it was good. I asked him whether he went to the Lincoln Center or Angelica theaters, he said no, I downloaded it from, but it's all over the internet. Incredible.

Albert Collins on Feb 24, 2007


I have not seen the movie, but from the trailer it seems we have the girls friend as a being resembling the devil, so what is new ! It seems today people think that the devil is a good being and God is the enemy, but this is hollywood.. we tend to say the good is bad and bad is good. I wonder where the decent well rounded movies are today, well they are not around anymore because they do not sell. People may like the movie, but well people don't always or at all, know what is good for them. ps: My DVD player broke today, maybe that is a hint to leave it broke and do things that are more constructive in life then waste away watching movies.

mike on May 19, 2007


First of all this movie was amazing. I really hope that it's not released in a dubbed version as it will take away so much from the film. I remember seeing "Brotherhood of the Wolf" years ago in the theatre. It was French language with English subtitles and I loved it. So when it came out I bought it...guess was dubbed! It sucked. And as for the comment from Mike: The creature your referring to is not the's a mythical creature called a Faun. The same creature that was in Chronicles of Narnia. Typical of people like yourself to comment on something you have yet to see. It's an experience watching this film. Give it a try.

Chico on Jun 6, 2007

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