George Clark’s review published on Letterboxd:
El laberinto del fauno (The Labyrinth of the Faun) or better known as Pan's Labyrinth is a 2006 Spanish-Mexican dark fantasy film written and directed by Guillermo del Toro and stars Ivana Baquero, Sergi López, Maribel Verdú, Doug Jones, and Ariadna Gil.
After the disappointment of not writing a review for last weeks Film Club pick Jesus Christ Superstar (sorry Michael!) i decided to move onto our newest Film Club pick the foreign language film Pan’s Labyrinth suggested by Quintin. Being a great admirer of dark fantasy films like this it’s rather embarrassing I never found the time to watch it until now.
The story of Pan’s Labyrinth takes place in Spain 1944, a few years after The Civil War, which ended in 1939 when General Franco emerged victorious and began taking over as Dictator of Spain. Amidst this time setting, the narrative of the film takes place and intertwines the real world with a mythical world centered on an overgrown abandoned labyrinth and a mysterious faun creature.
Undoubtedly Guillermo del Toro is the unrivalled master at showcasing these weird wacky yet incredibly wonderful creatures and that’s what he does best within this. These creatures, most important the faun and the “Pale Man” have become icons in today’s cinema as the subtle horror-esque feeling they emit to the audience is truly creepy to watch at times as, this being my first watch, they often took the story to darker, stranger places than I would have ever predicted whilst also allowing it to feel realistic with the soldiers storyline and fantastic ending. Guillermo del Toro’s, El laberinto del fauno won 3 Oscars (direction, cinematography and makeup) and it’s clear to see why. The films cinematography is breathtaking throughout, the make up is of course completely stunning and del Toro’s direction is flawless.
El laberinto del fauno is unlike any movie I’ve ever seen before, the brothers Grim tales always work for me. It’s a haunting mix of horror, history and fantasy that all work simultaneously on nearly every level. However, like 99% of films, this film isn’t perfect. At times Pan’s Labyrinth can be utterly predictable and that did cause the storyline to have less effect as the story moves in a manner where you can anticipate what will occur next and sadly, that did slightly disappoint me. Yet, although it’s slightly predictable for the first two acts, the ending knocked it out of the park and blew me away. The sadness that comes from her final smile, how everyone around her looked and the way the storyline plays out in its final moments are all truly mesmerising as the performances from Ivana Baquero, Sergi López and Maribel Verdú and all phenomenal in those closing moments.
At the end of the day, upon first watch it’s clear to me that Pan’s Labyrinth is a special, more meaningful film. Although the young girl’s fantasy world juxtaposes her harsh real world, the film makes a point in sayings it’s not just mere escapism, its more than that, it’s a way for her to take control of her life, feel like she’s special and ultimately, of course, escape the harsh reality of the current world around her. Whilst not every aspect is as flawless as they first may seem, it does very little to downgrade the overall film. For me this was an amazing watch and it’s one I’m thankful I can now say I’ve seen.