J.D. Lafrance
Pan’s Labyrinth: Criterion Collection DVD Review

Pan’s Labyrinth: Criterion Collection

November 30, 2016

Director: Guillermo del Toro,
Starring: Ivana Baquero, Sergi Lopez, Maribel Verdu, Doug Jones, Alex Angulo, Ariadna Gil, Manolo Solo, Cesar Vea, Roger Casamajor,

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DVD Review

J.D. Lafrance

There are two kinds of Guillermo del Toro films – the ones he makes for the Hollywood studios, like Pacific Rim (2013), and the ones he makes independently, like The Devil’s Backbone (2001). Both kinds are personal statements for the filmmaker but the latter are more unfiltered Del Toro where he has the creative freedom to let loose his imagination. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) is one of those films.

Set in Spain, 1944 after the Spanish Civil War, the story focuses on a young girl named Ofelia (Baquero) who, with her pregnant mother (Gil), lives at a military camp run by a fascist captain known as Vidal (Lopez) who is determined to kill the guerrilla army that has taken refuge in the surrounding woods. Vidal is a very cruel man and reacts violently to those that oppose him. Ofelia takes solace in a fantasy realm populated by fantastic creatures and eventually the two worlds collide.

Del Toro masterfully juxtaposes the brutal cruelty of the real world with the beauty of the fantasy one where Ofelia finds refuge. It is the so-called monsters that are more kind and humane than the sadistic Vidal who is the true monster. Del Toro has a real affinity and affection for the women in his film, from Ofelia to Mercedes and the women that work in the kitchen for the soldiers. There is a camaraderie among them as they work for brutish men.

Pan’s Labyrinth is also a coming-of-age tale as Ofelia loses her innocence over the course of the film as she becomes exposed to the harsh realities of the adult world, much like the child protagonist in The Devil’s Backbone, which also used the Spanish Civil War as its historical backdrop.

With Pan’s Labyrinth, Del Toro crafted a fairy tale both wondrous and nightmarish, populated by a virtuous heroine, fantastical creatures, and a monstrous villain but all are given a refreshing complexity that is often missing from these kinds of films. Del Toro is clearly a fan of the genre but instead of ripping off other films that come before, he draws inspiration from classic literature and art. The end result is a cinematic masterpiece.

Special Features:

This Blu-Ray transfer is rich in detail and preserves the filmic look of Pan’s Labyrinth very faithfully.

Most of the extras on this disc are ported over from the special edition DVD released years ago.

There is an audio commentary by Guillermo del Toro who points out that Pan’s Labyrinth is a companion piece, of sorts, to The Devil’s Backbone. He wanted to juxtapose fantasy with violence and this came out of the impact the events of 9/11 had on him. He talks about the distinctive color schemes for the real world and the fantasy one and what it means. The filmmaker also talks about the challenges of making a film on a modest budget.

There is a brief introduction to the film by Del Toro.

“Del Toro and Funke” is a new interview with the filmmaker by novelist Cornelia Funke (Inkheart). They talk about the kinds of fairy tales they’re drawn to and why they are attracted to them. Del Toro talks about his love of the ambiguity of fairy tales and how the western notion is to over-explain everything.

“Director’s Notebook” is an interactive gallery of pages from Del Toro’s notebooks that include drawings and concepts that he used for inspiration.

“The Power of Myth” features Del Toro talking about his love of fairy tales – their simplicity and brutality. He also talks about the time period the film is set in.

“Pan and the Fairies” takes a look at how the creatures were created. It provides insights into why Del Toro wanted them to look a certain way.

“The Color and the Shape” features Del Toro talking about the importance of color in the film, which included a specific palette for both the real and fantasy worlds.

“The Melody Echoes the Fairy Tale” examines the role music plays in the film. Del Toro wanted something simple yet effective, like a lullaby.

There is a new interview with actor Doug Jones who played both the faun and the Pale Man. He spent many hours buried under a lot of makeup and talks about his approach to acting with it. He gives his initial impression of Del Toro and how they first met.

“Ivana Baquero Audition” features footage of the actress trying out for the part of Ofelia.

“Prequel Comics” features four animated comics that shed light on the origins of the four creatures from the film.

“Video Comparisons” show variations of the lullaby theme, the green fairy as it was on the set and then in the finished film, and thumbnails and storyboards from four scenes with the finished film.

Finally, there is a teaser, theatrical trailer and 7 T.V. spots.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance


Rating: 99%

Website: https://www.criterion.com/films/28948-pan-s-labyrinth


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