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Pan’s Labyrinth Movie Review

Pan’s Labyrinth, appearing to be following a simple plot stands to differ from any other fright film in its true superiority in the intelligent implication of metaphors, infused with brilliance in its writing, and its ability to convey a strong message to its audience. Guillermo del Toro exhibits his supremacy in filmmaking by bringing forth a masterpiece that interprets fantasy as digestible into the real world. The film’s true essence resides in the cross-references to the behavior depicted by the child in accordance with her surrounding while matching it to that of a parallel world example of adults. A brilliant comparison of the unreal with the real world is where Guillermo takes the lead with his talented fantasy interpretation in association with Franco-ite Spain time. The movie pictures a time during the Spanish war-torn civil war of 1944. At a time when Republicans have been defeated and Spain celebrates its victory.

Summary of Pan’s Labyrinth

The movie pictures an astoundingly fierce appearing Captain Vidal character, played by Sergie Lopez, who falls in love with a woman, marrying and welcoming her to his manor. The Captain brings the pregnant bride to his home in the forest. Vidal’s bride Carmen, played by Adriana Gil, accepted Vidal’s hand in marriage to kill away the loneliness from her life and moves in with him. Widowed and with a child, Carmen brings along her daughter Ofelia, played by Ivana Baquero, whose suspicious and scared of her step-father since he strikes fear in her heart (DOAN, and B. E. T. H 2012). A reason, for this reason, is the brutal murder scene she witnesses when Vidal viciously beats and eventually kills two suspected Republicans. The scene displays the true horrific details embedded in Vidal’s treatment of the suspects and shows no relentless towards his execution-style either.

Ofelia feels out of place, scared, and seeking a way to escape from all attempts to find her refugee by wandering around the house. Her adventures result in her discovery of the labyrinth that sits beneath the house and this is where she comes to meet a faun, beautifully displayed and played, who welcomes Ofelia with a warm gesture. He tells her that she’s a princess and destined for much more but in order to gain all of it, she must endure and accomplish some perilous tasks. This discovery leaves Ofelia in awe of it and decides to leave the adults out of it, to keep it a secret from them as she figures it will be her sanctuary amidst all of the chaos around her. Ofelia soon comes to realize the true horrors that await her in the labyrinth right after she sets foot in it and learns sooner than later that it may be more horrifying than what she’s already facing in her new life.

Analysis of mise’ en scene for Pan’s Labyrinth

The depiction of Pan’s labyrinth in both a materialistic as well as a mystical world from the perspective of a mise’ en scene provides the viewers with a proper concept of the film’s actual setting to be taking place in a Spanish civil war of 1944. Presents a bold, relentless, and fierce Captain taking charge of his troop, his new family, and the servants at his house. From a critical point, it can be set that the film takes the viewers through the story of two worlds in parallel featuring the main protagonist Ofelia who must endure the struggle in both of these worlds and her attempts of escaping her new life with a cruel and violently wicked stepfather. A large part of the film is based on the story’s dark and twisted plot, starting from the time of her meeting the faun, getting the three tasks that she must accomplish to the part where she enters the labyrinth for the first time (Orme 2010). The movie’s transition from the real world to the fictional world imposes no impact on the time period displayed in the movie, however, set designs and lighting depicts the transfer. The overall setting shows a safer environment with the use of yellow tones.

The film also shows a true sense of power placement exhibited by Vidal’s role is when Ofelia meets him for the first time. Her first handshake with the Captain exemplifies a portion of the Captain’s true power as he grips her hand with all his might, pressing on to her hand. The movie also compares the two pale monsters from the labyrinth to Vidal from the way they are seated at the head of the table, with the same monstrous presence emitting from both of them and the view present behind them as well. The setting overall is superbly presented in the movie.

Mise’ en Scene analysis defines the basis that nearly every film captures through the use of its props, design, stage, and costumes. The props in this movie were remarkable, especially the one used for the depiction of the mystical creatures and the pale monster of the labyrinth. The use of props to create a proper stage to display the Spanish civil war truly breathes new life into the reenactment of wartime.

Pan’s Labyrinth – Cinematography

In comparison, Guillermo Del Toro is much like Navarro and at the time of shooting the movie Pan’s Labyrinth, much of the crew was unavailable, and as such Del Toro was assisted by Navarro. The crew assembled for the movie was a makeshift team and complete strangers to each other. Navarro found this to his advantage and availed their services in a way he saw fit for the movie (Godwin Volume 35# 2). Most of the photography was set over a period of three months and since filming in Spain only allowed for a crew to be available for 5 and half-day work schedule. Navarro used this in smartly while setting up the film’s shots in a detailed and proper manner. The equipment used for the movie was also made in Spain. The cameras that captured the shots were owned by Navarro. He made use of the cameras he was previously using for his film. Among his equipment was a 435ES Arri lens, and two Zeiss lens which was ultra-prime and variable prime. Each of those is used depending on the requirements of the shot.

For the purposes of Light and Dark, Navarro made use of three film stocks, Vision2 500T, Vision 250D and Vision 250T, each for a particular shot. Much of the film was shot by the crew in the forest, capturing the manor belonging to Vidal. However, most of the film’s daytime was shot at night while in the forest, and as such it was difficult for sources of artificial light to illuminate things around for a proper daytime setting. This is where Navarro’s experience comes into play, as he creates a properly covering each aspect, creating a mystical nighttime experience, and also bringing the film’s fantasy-based portion into life with his use of lightening effects while keeping it fully eerie and dark. Much of the effort relied entirely on Del Toro’s and Navarro’s gut feeling and their experience in places that needed to be exposed and underexposed for the filming of the movie’s imagery. Whatever lead the movie took but it resulted in a positive way with Navarro and Del Toro taking charge while establishing a comfortable manner of wavelength for visuals. Their mutual interest in elements of darkness, color preference, and letting the imagery convey the meaning of the movie’s narrative is truly magnificent. The fact remains true that a movie of this nature demanded true dedication of visuals, combining both worlds while keeping the flow of the movie stable. Every movie’s narrative resides in the images. Pan’s labyrinth exhibits this by the stage and lighting setting in it since movies like this rely on images more than the dialogue in them. It was imperative to make images in a manner that was mysterious yet easily understandable by the audience too. Navarro paid special attention to keeping the balance between the two while getting the shots directed and Del Toro’s assistance allowed for flawless execution of narrative in these images. The true struggle was to create a method through which the audience will be able to walk with Ofelia as she discovers and learns new things. However, this perspective of the movie can lead the audience to question the events of the movie are real or Ofelia’s imagination as the story starts to unfold after she attempts to complete her tasks.

Del Toro with the assistance of Navarro was able to create a splendid movie that was able to win the hearts of many. The symbolic representation in the movie leaves people pondering the plot for days. The real and mystical world go hand in hand, from a critical analysis of it. Most of the elements are in correlated to Ofelia’s real-world setting but the mystical world fits her adventure. Teaching her endurance, fear, and the struggle of the real world. Every aspect of the movie, from the stage to props and costumes, lighting, and plot display their unparalleled skill to the audience.

Works Cited

DOAN, HOANG NI THI, and B. E. T. H. BENSEN-BARBER. “PAN’S LABYRINTH REVIEW.” PAN 11 (2012): 08.WHO consultation (WHO Technical Report Series, No. 894). Geneva: Author. (2000).

Orme, Jennifer. “Narrative desire and disobedience in Pan’s Labyrinth.” Marvels & Tales 24.2 (2010): 219-234.

Godwin, Natasha S. “Through the Looking Lens: Modernity and Identity in German, Spanish and Mexican Film.” NATIONAL SOCIAL SCIENCE JOURNAL Volume 35# 2.



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