Pan’s Labyrinth – 2006 – English
Film directed in 2006 by Guillermo del Toro, and starring Ivana Baquero, Sergi López, Maribel Verdú, Doug Jones, Ariadna Gil, Álex Angulo, Federico Luppi, Roger Casamajor, Fernando Tielve, Pepa Pedroche, José Luis Torrijo, Ivan Massagué, César Vea, Manolo Solo, Eusebio Lázaro, Francisco Vidal, Gonzalo Uriarte, Lina Mira, Mario Zorrilla, Sebastián Haro, Juanjo Cucalón, Ana Sáez, Milo Taboada, Lalá Gatóo, Pedro G. Marzo, Fernando Albizu, Íñigo Garcés, Chani Martín, Chicho Campillo…
Synopsis: In 1944 Falangist Spain, a girl, fascinated with fairy-tales, is sent along with her pregnant mother to live with her new stepfather, a ruthless captain of the Spanish army. During the night, she meets a fairy who takes her to an old faun in the center of the labyrinth. He tells her she’s a princess, but must prove her royalty by surviving three gruesome tasks. If she fails, she will never prove herself to be the true princess and will never see her real father, the king, again.
Review: I saw Pan’s Labyrinth toward the end of the Cannes Film Festival; it edged out all the others I’d seen, 30 of them, because of its wonderful story; history, politics and fantasy woven into a fabric spun by a superlative creative team headed by Guillermo del Toro. In comparison to this, his latest effort, del Toro’s other films only hinted at the depth and breadth of his talent. In this film, much as I pride myself on foreseeing the outcome of most stories, I could not guess what would happen next. The film is quite long, yet suspense is sustained throughout. The music is some of the best I’ve heard in years, so well suited to the action that you almost don’t notice its specific effect because of how well it is intertwined with the visual, emotional and intellectual experience.
In my opinion, del Toro’s “…Labyrinth” deserved to win at Cannes over the Ken Loach film, “The Wind That Shakes the Barley”. Actually, everyone I knew at the Festival who had seen both agreed with me. And the 22 minute ovation speaks clearly for the effect on the audience. It’s hard to imagine that any film could beat it in a context other than Cannes where they have marked preferences, bordering on obsession, for certain directors.
Let’s hope that the late December opening favors an Oscar nomination which it should win hands down, unless some other work of genius appears on the horizon. That doesn’t seem likely because at Cannes the somewhat disappointing array of films was attributed to the fact that not much great product is being released this year. I might add that I had already seen Volver prior to Pan’s Labyrinth, and I maintain that Pan is the better film. For me, it displaced all three of my top films of the year. I do love The Departed but, luckily, that’s in another category which does not threaten Pan’s access to Oscar. If I had to choose the very best picture of the year, without limitation by category, it would most assuredly go to Pan’s Labyrinth for it demonstrates del Toro’s originality and brilliance as both writer and director.