Pan's Labyrinth. Pan’s Labyrinth is something of a summative film from Mexican director Guillermo del Toro. Having worked on projects that offered a high level of special effects, such asHellboy (2004), as well as those that created an unnervingly otherworldly atmosphere (for example, 2001’s The Devil’s Backbone), here, in perhaps his most mature picture, the director brings the two strands together. The result is a film that is both eerie and built around special effects technology (hence its three visual-related Oscars).
Set in 1944, Pan’s Labyrinth tells the story of Ofelia, a young girl who discovers a fantastical world of woodland creatures when her mother takes her to northern Spain to join her stepfather, a brutish and bitter member of General Franco’s Facist army. Del Toro gathers together a roster of top-line Spanish actors, including Sergi Lopez, Ariadna Gil, Maribel Verdu, alongside Ivana Baquero as the young girl.
Set against a backdrop of post-civil war Spain, the film’s startling beauty and strength of its performances offer much to admire. “Shooting Pan’s Labyrinth was very painful,” del Toro told Sight & Sound, “but it also became a war about me not compromising. I gave back my entire salary in order to get the film made the way I wanted it.” If the story fails to fully unite the reality and fantasy elements—Pan’s Labyrinth remains two outstanding halves rather than one spectacular whole—this does not make del Toro’s accomplishment any less extraordinary.