-This review pertains to the 2-disc Platinum Edition DVD of Pan's Labyrinth-
Director Guillermo del Toro's film Pan's Labyrinth (as it is called in the U.S.) is more than just another fantasy film. It's a thematically complex fairy tale for adults. And it may be the most profound and personal film of the Mexican director's career.
The story is set in 1944, in Spain where the fascists still hold sway over the people. Amidst this turmoil a young girl and her pregnant mother are leaving behind their home, their former lives and going to live with the mother's new husband, the fascist El Capitan. The girl finds that she can only survive through the use of her imagination, but the fairy tale world to which she escapes turn out to be more real than the world in which she is trapped. She stumbles onto an ancient ruinous labyrinth and in its center is a pit that serves as a doorway between the "real" world and the "fantasy" world. Living deep within this pit is the faun, an ambiguous and immortal creature. He tells the girl that she is a princess and a goddess, that she does not belong to our cruel and violent world, and that if she is to return her own she must first complete three extraordinary tasks. Meanwhile her mother suffers from complications of her pregnancy, and the Captain's command is under threat by the Socialist resistance, whose band is camped in the surrounding forests. Soon all of these elements collide and destinies are revealed.
Guillermo's film is easily the most visually spectacular film of 2006 and is rich in detail. He brilliantly uses the screen as a painter would use a canvas and every color that he chooses has particular meaning, every shadow hides within it a mystery, and every light serves as beacon for hope. The visual effects and the cinematography are amazing. The world of magic is vividly brought to life in gold, red, yellow and orange. The other world, our world, is disturbingly cold in black, gray, blue and green. But as the two worlds affect each other the color palettes begin to mix.
As director he also references other works of fantasy, both in literature and in film, and uses thematic components of countless fairy tales. The film could almost be seen as one part Anne Frank and one part Alice in Wonderland. The themes that are dealt with are truly universal: the importance of innocence, the power of sacrifice, the perils of ambition, the corrupting qualities of obsession, betrayal and doubt, but most prominently transcendence through selflessness. The characters are simple archetypes but the performances are complex and multi-faceted. The story is timeless, a truly modern fairy tale.
Although a fairy tale it's definitely not for children. It deals with the darker aspects of humanity and the loss of childhood innocence. There are numerous scenes of graphic violence and most of the fantastical creatures would give children nightmares. It's quite obvious that this film is for adults once you've seen a man's face crushed with a bottle. This is an R-rated fantasy film; it's not Harry Potter or even The Lord of the Rings. It's Pan's Labyrinth.
So if you aren't easily frightened maybe you might just take a journey through its winding passages, discover its mysteries, breathe in its poetry and find yourself lost in its vision.
The 2-disc Platinum Series edition has some amazing special features that will be sure to intrigue and enlighten those interested in the film. The special features include a film introduction with Guillermo del Toro, an audio commentary with Guillermo del Toro, trailers, image galleries, an episode of the "Charlie Rose Show", "Director's Notebook" with introduction and interactive features, three fascinating featurettes, and DVD comics.
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Dec 16, 2008
Jun 7, 2012 07:25 PM UTC
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