Guillermo Del Toro’s clear love of all things magical and mystical, and his skill at portraying such subject matter on screen, made him a shoo-in to be given the director’s job for The Hobbit. While that job may not have worked out, (and now rests in the capable hands of Peter Jackson), Middle Earth’s loss may well be our gain, because if this gives del Toro more time to create gems like Pan’s Labyrinth then we are all in for a treat.
For years Del Toro was honing his skills on films like Cronos, The Devil’s Backbone, and big budget pictures like Hellboy and Blade II. All of this experience fed into the creation of what has been the stand-out film so far in an already solid catalogue of work.
Only one of the things Blade and a little Spanish girl named Ofelia end up having in common
Pan’s Labyrinth takes place in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. The rebel fighters have been defeated and fascism reigns. It is no surprise that in this world our young protagonist Ofelia escapes into her own imagination. Her concerns are for fairies, fauns and magical kingdoms. Ofelia has clearly suffered through much in her young life and she allows herself to escape from reality. When she does meet the eponymous faun, Pan, he tells her she is a princess from a magical kingdom. To prove that she has not turned mortal however she must complete some challenges.
Fauns? Fairies? If Ofelia was a kid today she would be pumped full of Ritalin
When we first meet Ofelia and her mother they are on their way to begin a new life with Ofelia’s ‘new father’, Captain Vidal. Sergi López’s Vidal is one of the great screen villains. Unlike say, Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds, he is not lovably evil, he’s just a bastard (one scene in particular – which I will not ruin, but must be watched – would put you off hunting rabbits in the foothills of Spain for life).
He smokes a pipe! This guy can’t be that bad.
The fairytale world Del Toro creates allows him to conjure up some great creatures. The Faun and the ‘Pale Man’, both played by regular Del Toro collaborator Doug Jones, would give any grown man nightmares. While Del Toro may be known for his unique monsters, the relationships between the human characters are what hold Pan’s Labyrinth together and makes it the modern fantasy masterpiece that it is.
The ‘Pale Man’: not the best dinner party guest.
A toast! A must watch if you are a fan of foreign cinema or Guillermo Del Toro or if you’re a human being.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a drink: for every Spanish word you understand
Take a drink: whenever anyone gets shot
Drink a shot: whenever Vidal kills someone