A bold juxtaposition of real and unreal worlds is at the heart of Guillermo del Toro's visually inventive fantasy about Franco-ite Spain. It's so audacious and so technically accomplished, and arrives here garlanded with so many radiant superlatives, that I wish I liked it more. The film's political dimension is never quite as lavishly or as enthusiastically achieved as its fantasy life, however, and its energies are asymmetric: the surface world of history is clogged compared to the sheer energy of its subterranean dreamscape.
Like Del Toro's 2001 picture The Devil's Backbone, Pan's Labyrinth is about the Spanish civil war. It is 1944; the struggle against the Republicans has been won in Spain. D-Day, and Hitler's imminent collapse in Europe, are distant and unwelcome rumours. A fierce Franco-ite Captain Vidal, played by the incomparably sinister Sergi López, prepares to welcome his pregnant bride to the family home in the forest, which he is reinforcing as a military redoubt because it is surrounded by Republican guerrillas holding out in the woods. His new wife Carmen (Adriana Gil) is a widow who has accepted Vidal's proposal of marriage out of loneliness; Ofélia (Ivana Baquero), her daughter by her first marriage, is terrified of this wicked stepfather, as well she might be. On the very first night, Vidal brutally beats and murders two suspected Republicans - a horribly violent scene - putting his bad-guy status beyond doubt.
Ofélia has somewhere to escape. This intelligent, bookish child has discovered a secret labyrinth beneath the house inhabited by a magnificent, awe-inspiring faun who hails Ofélia as a Princess, but tells her she must carry out terrifying tasks to enter into her destiny; this she does, without telling the grown-ups of this strange other world beneath their feet. Nor is Ofélia the only double agent in the film. Vidal's housekeeper and doctor have treacherous Republican sympathies.
Fascism is perhaps the ultimate example of that sleep of reason which brings forth monsters. Del Toro's monsters are pretty extraordinary. He has said that his designs are influenced by Arthur Rackham, the English Victorian artist who illustrated Lewis Carroll and Shakespeare. This description doesn't do justice to the originality of Del Toro's pictorial devices. At the film's beginning, Ofélia has a little pinafore dress recalling Alice; her name echoes Hamlet's love, but her self-reliance and grit far surpass that passive Shakespearian figure. Maybe her name is a female variant of Orpheus.
At any rate, it is an excellent performance from 12-year-old Baquero. Ofélia must confront a giant and loathsome toad in a claustrophobic tunnel. She must square up to the giant and imperious faun, Pan. Most dauntingly of all, she has to approach the nightmarish figure of the Pale Man, whose eyes are in his hands - he is able to see her when he holds his palms up to the sides of his head. That extraordinary image alone is worth the price of admission.
What do these creatures say about fascism? Or, what does fascism say about them? Del Toro asks us to consider Pan's exotic world side-by-side with political history. We have to consume them on equal terms, like chewing cake and cheese together. It's a bold and intriguing proposition, but I'm not sure it comes off. Del Toro does well to remind us of the cruel reality of Franco's Spain: a fascist state tacitly encouraged by many as a bulwark against communism, and seen by many more as an example of the historical inevitability of extreme nationalism. These are the bad guys who were not defeated, and perhaps Del Toro's fantasy of the ambiguous, tyrannical faun is not merely a dramatising of Ofélia's private anxieties, but a way of working through Spain's collective fear and distrust of its own past. Either way, I felt the movie was a series of four or five brilliant images, like illustrative plates from a Victorian volume, or frames from a graphic novel. There was no overwhelming narrative drive or inner dramatic life to animate them. But what amazing pictures Del Toro dreams up.
Pan’s Labyrinth Movie Essay - Allegory, Fable and Realism Fused by Director Guillermo Del Toro
How does director Guillermo Del Toro fuse allegory, fable and realism to tell a story about the triumph of good over evil in post Civil War Spain? Discuss with reference to cinematic techniques, as well as content.
In the film Pan’s Labyrinth the director Guillermo Del Toro exposes good vs. evil in this film using techniques such as lighting and sound. Dark, sinister lighting is used to portray a character as frightening or evil. Sound creates atmosphere change to a more frightening or happy scene. The setting of this film is in Spain after the Spanish Civil War. The story uses symbolism to entwine two worlds together. Combining the harsh, world of fascist post-war Francoist Spain with the light, happy, and trouble free world of magic and fantasy. The main character Ofelia is a girl who has the choice to go to the trouble-free fairy world, or stay in the real world with her heavily-pregnant mother. She believes that she is Princess Moanna in the fairy tale world. Initially she does not want to leave her mother, Carmen, but when her mother dies giving birth to a child, Ofelia decides that she must leave with the baby to the fairy-tale world. In the desperate times of the post-civil war Ofelia has to complete three tasks before the moon is full, so that she may enter the fairy tale world and escape from the harsh reality of fascist Spain.
The Spanish civil war was devastating to Spain and to the rebels and fascists alike. It lasted from 17th July 1936 to the 1st April 1939. The war was between the fascists and the rebel resistance. The fascists were led by General Francisco Franco, the dictator in power over Spain. The fascists had the support of Nazi Germany and fascist Italy, and the rebels had the support of the Soviet Union and republican Mexico. The war ended with the victory of the fascists and the fall of the rebels. In the story Ofelia's step-father is working for the fascist general Francisco Franco and one of the maids, Mercedes, is working for the rebels hiding in the forest. This shows the contrasting personalities and ideas of members within the camp.
The story Pan’s Labyrinth is half fairy tale, and half realistic story. Originally fairy-tales started out as much more gruesome, graphical stories rather than some of the new strand of stories. This is one of those stories. This means that for a nicer, more modernised version of this story 'Disney' would probably put in more talking characters, no violence and Carmen not pregnant. The story is Spanish so the word 'fauno' in rough translation means faun in Spanish because the actual name of the film was 'El laberinto del fauno' so the translation was 'faun's labyrinth'. The word pan is the name of the faun in a story who plays the pipes.
In the film CGI (computer generated images) is used to create some of the creatures such as the mandrake root, the fairies. However the child eating monster was actually played by an actor wearing a costume and a lot of make-up. The CGI help to make it possible show the symbolism between the two worlds and how some of the magical creatures in Ofelia’s world relate to the story being told in the real world. This is done by making realistic looking monsters and creatures.
This story is an allegory. An allegory is a story told by another story. The fairy tales tell the story of the post-war struggle in Spain using some of the challenges symbolism to connect to the events with Mercedes or the doctor or Captain Vidal. For example the child-eating monster represents Captain Vidal. This is shown in two similar scenes, at the end Ofelia is running away from the captain, and during the middle of the film she runs away from the monster. So Ofelia is running away from them both.
The colours of the two worlds play a major part in telling the story, because of the stereotypical images of fear and evil, or
good and warm. For instance the human world is portrayed as dark and sinister with quite dark blues and grey and the fairytale world is shown using dazzling gold and reds to show a very bright, hopeful and trustworthy place. Also the captain’s military squad dressed in quite dark blue so that it promotes fear and darkness however the faun also wears quite dark colours. So you may wonder whether the faun really is someone that Ofelia can trust. On the other end of the scale is the king of the underworld who wears very golden bright costume. The whole film is a flashback except a small portion at the end of the film. You can tell this by at the beginning of the film the blood is running back up Ofelia’s nose and camera goes into her eye, like going into her mind or memory.
During the film there are transitions to change from scene to scene or follow a character. Usually the transitions change from good character’s story, to evil character’s story. Also it helps change from the real world to the fairytale world. For instance it changes when Ofelia enters the tree, to when the captain is in the forest.
In the film there is also a sense of allegory between the film and Spain as a whole and parts of religion. For instance there are the fascists vs the rebels which, in a way, represents WW2 battles between the allies and the fascists. There is also a religious context of self-sacrifice. This is shown with the doctor, Mercedes and Ofelia when she will not allow the faun to harm the baby.
This self sacrifice is very bold and honourable of the characters to do, this also shows that to have peace there must be sacrifice.
In conclusion there is a great mixture of allegory, fable and realism used in the film. This is shown throughout the film via the characters and their actions or in-actions. The film is Spanish because the film-maker is Mexican and also the story-line is set in Spain. This concludes my report on 'Pan's Labyrinth'.