Guillermo Del Toro is an amazing writer and director. I am hard pressed to think of one of his movies that I didn’t enjoy. Of course, some are stronger than others and, in my opinion, Pan’s Labyrinth is his masterpiece. I remember when I first saw it in the theater, walking out and knowing that I had seen what a movie should be.
Del Toro knows how to draw you into a story, whether that be through his writing or direction. A lot of directors get caught up in the style, but don’t provide enough substance. Del Toro knows how to balance both perfectly, and always gives you something to remember. This film is a beautiful, melancholic display of storytelling, utilizing elements of folklore and history. The film takes place in the Spanish Civil War and follows Ofelia, played by Ivana Baquero. Ofelia is obsessed with stories and you never really know if what she is seeing is real or just her imagination. Del Toro leaves that up to you. As she begins discover fantastical creatures, the audience is treated to mesmerizing imagery. This is especially present in the Pale Man scene and in The Faun, meticulously designed and executed. Each scene in Pan’s Labyrinth is exploding with detail. There are parts of the movie that look like an old oil painting come to life. We are also introduced to Fidel, played by Sergi Lopez. Fidel is Ofelia’s stepfather and the “Big Bad Wolf” of the story. I call him that because Del Toro intended him to represent that folklore archetype. Fidel lures Ofelia and her mother in, only to get what he wants. This provides the film with conflict, casting Ofelia as the brave princess who will do anything to save her family. I love how Fidel is obsessed with time. He’s always looking at his pocket watch and writing down the exact time of certain events, adding another unnerving aspect to his persona. To me Pan’s Labyrinth is art. It inspires me, and I hope it inspires you.
Pan’s Labyrinth is currently available on both Criterion Collection and Standard Blu-Ray and DVD.