Pan's Labyrinth Brilliant Del Toro

Cannes Film Fest 2006–Pan's Labyrinth is Guillermo del Toros most personal work to date, fusing his deep understanding of childhood with his extravagant imagination and his abiding interest in the Spanish Civil War and the dangers of ideology. Tracing the fate of an innocent little girl in a landscape of man-made evil, del Toro PANS LABYRINTH draws us in to its complex universe from its very first frame, sweeping us along for a story that dazzles, frightens and moves. It is filmmaking at its most visionary and disciplined, and with it del Toro moves to the front ranks of world cinema.

PANS LABYRINTH is del Toros second film set against the historical backdrop of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). The war began when a group of right-wing military generals attempted to topple the newly elected leftist government, which among other programs sought to implement meaningful land reform for the countrys peasant farmers. The rebel Nationalists commanded by Francisco Franco were supported by Catholic Church hierarchy and Spains landowning elite, and received material aid and armed support from the governments of Hitler and Mussolini.

Many ordinary Spaniards, along with communists and anarchists, joined the governments Republican Army; the Republicans also received manpower and support from the progressive International Brigades, the Soviet Union and Mexico. Estimates of the Wars casualties vary from 250,000 to 1 million.

Spanish Refugees in Mexico

Del Toros interest in the War and the Franco regime dates back to his childhood in Mexico, where many Spanish exiles sought refuge. Mexico was a very brave country at the time of the Civil War, del Toro notes. We opened ourselves to any and all Republican immigrants that would come to us. These expatriates heavily shaped Mexican culture and cinema. Some of them became key mentors of mine growing up. They had tales of leaving Spain behind as children. These tales affected me a lot.

Del Toro first explored the period in his 2001 ghost story THE DEVILS BACKBONE, which was set in at boys orphanage/school in the final days of the war. He initially conceived PANS LABYRINTH as an outgrowth of that film, but set the idea aside when he went on to direct BLADE II. BLADE II was immediately followed by del Toros acclaimed adaptation of the Mike Mignolas comic book series HELLBOY.

Fairy Tale

By the time del Toro was able to resume work on PANS LABYRINTH in 2003, he had a different idea for the film: he would write it as a fairy tale. Del Toro counts fairy tales among his earliest influences. Derived from oral folk stories passed down since antiquity, the written fairy tales of the 17th- 19th Centuries were filled with blood and violence as well as beauty and enchantment. Fantastic as they were, the stories spoke to the fears and anxieties faced by their audience, both adults and children.

I have been fascinated by fairy tales and the mechanics at work in them since my early childhood, del Toro says. I have enjoyed reading the original versions of Grimms Fairy Tales and have always found that the form itself lends easily to deeply disturbing images. Hans Christian Andersen and Oscar Wilde in fact have some tales of thinly veiled S&M, full of horrific and brutal moments.

I always try to integrate some fairy tale elements in my films, going back to CRONOS and MIMIC. Once I was done with HELLBOY I was aching to do a tale that was rooted in a visual world that I could codify and then run amok. Del Toro discussed his concept for PANS LABYRINTH with Alfonso Cuarn, his close friend and colleague for over 20 years.

Platform of Freedom

Cuarn loved the idea, as did producer Frida Torresblanco, his partner in the production company, Esperanto Filmoj. Esperanto thus joined forces with The Tequila Gang, the production company co-owned by del Toro and his longtime producer Bertha Navarro, to make the film. Torresblanco notes that the arrangement allowed for del Toro to work without creative restrictions. Alfonso really was so curious about what Guillermo wanted to do. He said, I just want to make this happen I want to see this movie! Alfonso has
total trust in Guillermo, she says. I think for Alfonso, it was important to give Guillermo a platform of total freedom. Thats something the three of them — Alfonso, Guillermo and Alejandro Gonzlez (Irritu) — really need. To express themselves, to let their imaginations go.

Like Brothers

Adds del Toro, Alfonso and I met at a time when we could only dream of film and went at it with blind faith. We had worked together in a TV series and later, officially, as co-producers of Sebastin Corderos CRNICAS. We are truly like brothers. I wanted Alfonso involved as an official friend of the project that could help me and be a true champion when my strength
waned. And he was.

Like its fairy tale forebears, PANS LABYRINTH uses fantasy and the supernatural to confront the malevolence and violence of the real world, in this case Spain under Franco. Comments del Toro, PAN'S LABYRINTH unfurls during the middle of the pro-Franco period, and thus deals with
Fascism–its very essence. For me, fascism is a representation of the ultimate horror and it is, in this sense, an ideal concept through which to tell a fairy tale aimed at adults. Because fascism is first and foremost a form of perversion of innocence, and thus of childhood.

He centered the story on a young girl, Ofelia, who enters the heart of Francoist darkness when she and her pregnant mother, Carmen, go to live with her new stepfather, Captain Vidal. Like generations of children before her, Ofelia has learned about good and evil from fairy tales in which life and death are a separated by a hairs breadth. She hasnt yet reached the age where she is ready to set aside those stories, and beings that have enchanted Ofelia in books will come to inhabit the labyrinth she discovers on the grounds of Vidals headquarters.

Del Toro structured the narrative to shuttle between Ofelias private world and the historic reality of Francos Spain, a place of remorseless repression and wholesale violence personified by Captain Vidal. Vidal is sent to destroy a group of people and he goes at it without ever even wondering who they are or why they do what they do.

Sadly, I believe there are there are people out there that believe they can kill others for their own good and that go to bed peacefully, comforted by their beliefs, del Toro comments. Ofelias private world has its share of unsettling residents, including child-eating ogres and vile giant toads. The Faun, a satyr who guards the labyrinth, is an enigma, by turns playful, complimentary, and fierce. That is essentially his nature, del Toro points out. Satyrs are neither good nor bad in classical mythology. They are mischievous, ambiguous creatures that can kill a man or give birth to a field of flowers. They are Nature: uncaring but neutral. The Faun is an ambassador, a test monitor that will push Ofelia towards revealing her own spirit or failing to do so.


Painstaking research informed del Toros portrait of both real and unreal worlds of PANS LABYRINTH. His thorough immersion in the history of the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath ensured accuracy in every detail, from its depiction of Republican resistance in Northern Spain to the Nationalist insignia on various automobiles.

Del Toro is well versed in mythology and the history and forms of fairy tales, as described by authors including Maria Tatar, Jack Zipes, Vladimir Propp and Bruno Bettelheim. He drew upon that knowledge in creating Ofelias adventures in the underworld. All the elements are fashioned rigorously after classical patterns: the banquet where you should not eat, the three doors, the descent, the blood, etc., del Toro explains.

It is an environment that conjures shivers as easily as wonder. This fairy world has a grimy edge to it, del Toro affirms. Even the fairies are meat eaters!! I wanted all the creatures to have an air of menace. Fantasy is not an escape for Ofelia but it is a dark refuge. There is something vaguely embryonic about all the magic environments because I believe that fairy tales are ultimately about two things: facing the dragon or climbing back to our world inside.

Visual Influences

Preparations for PANS LABYRINTH were completed at lightning speed, in
just three months in 2005. However, del Toro had begun working on set and character sketches early on, adding still more after completing the screenplay. His main visual influences were paintings and illustrations, rather than films. I love the fairy tale illustrations of Arthur
Rackham, Edmund Dulac, and Kay Nielsen and remain entranced by the way they made fairy tales sensual and dark. Rackham, in particular, was key in this film. There is a perverse undercurrent in his work. His vision was plagued by knotty, twisted things that had a perverse
will to live.

His collaboration with his longtime director of photography Guillermo Navarro and production designer Eugenio Caballero moved swiftly. Recalls del Toro, We were popping out set designs in one or two days. It was very intricate work: puppetry, traditional prosthetics, CGI, etc., but executed in a context that was totally unexpected. Eugenio and Guillermo were completely attuned to what I wanted. We were all incredibly driven by this.
Having established the classical motifs of the films fairy tale universe, del

Imagination Run Wild

Toro let his imagination run wild in conjuring its various denizens, from the ghastly Pale Man with his eyes in his hands to the singularly repulsive Giant Toad. As strange as they are, these characters are not entirely separate from the world of Vidal and his men. When Vidals dinner guests arrive during a rainstorm one night, the umbrellas that inflate to shelter them are remarkably like the heaving black flesh of the Giant Toad confronted by Ofelia. I tried to very delicately trace visual and content parallels between the real world characters and sets with the imaginary ones, del Toro acknowledges.

The Faun

One of the most impressive expressions of del Toros imagination is the Faun, a towering creature with rams horns, mysterious opaque eyes, cascading blond hair, and a strangely jagged body.

The costume was made mostly of latex rubber foam, and the ram horns were made of fiberglass horns; makeup for actor Doug Jones took five hours each day. When performing, Jones operated the lower half of the Fauns head, while an off-camera puppeteer controlled the movement of the creatures opaque eyes and eyebrows through a machine installed inside the head. That puppeteer was also responsible for Jones makeup, so the two would run through a scene during makeup. Comments Jones, I trusted totally that whoever was operating the eyebrows and the eyes was working in concert with the bottom half of the
face that I was operating, and with my body posture, the tilt of the head and the dialogue that I was speaking. If Pan had one of his explosions, the puppeteer knew when that came. He would watch my body language and follow that with his upper-half facial expressions.

Shooting in Madrid

PANS LABYRINTH filmed for 11 weeks from June to October of 2005 in Madrid and the suburbs outside Madrid. It was Spains driest summer in decades — a considerable problem for a story that unfolds in a verdant forest. Reports del Toro, Everything was dry and brown. We literally had to shoot only around shaded areas where ferns grew for a few weeks. Immediately at camera left or right in most shots, the field was dry and dead.

Weather aside, the filming was a memorable and enjoyable experience. Baquero reports that she loved working with del Toro and her fellow actors. Guillermo and I started working together a few weeks before shooting, and we talked a lot about Ofelia. I had to know stuff about her that wasn't in the script, but was necessary in order to build the character.

Guillermo is like an open book. He knows everything and is very smart. I tried to learn as much as I could from him, she says. She also enjoyed watching Lpez transform himself into the evil Vidal. Sergi is such a funny and good man but Vidal is so mean and raw. It was incredible seeing him become Vidal. Working with all these amazing actors was a great experience.

Lopez's Monster

Lpez relished his chance to be the true monster of PANS LABYRINTH. I just had to let myself go and be the ogre of the film and enjoy the present that Guillermo gave me, he reports. For me it was like a big dream–submerging myself in Guillermos fantastic and overflowing

Sound Design

Del Toro turned to DEVILS BACKBONE composer Javier Navarrete to create the score for PANS LABYRINTH, and entrusted the sound design to Martn Hernndez, who has worked on all of Irritus films as well as CITY OF GOD. The score and sound design combined to create an atmosphere del Toro describes as very expressive, very grand, fairy-tale like in some aspects.

Martn Hernndez and his team prepared thousands of sound tracks for environments and reatures. Javier Navarrete created a very emotional score. I felt that the central piece should e a lullaby, one that would suggest some Celtic elements in the North of Spain and be full of sadness. We tailored the score on the basis of themes for each character and its environment, thus giving each situation its own sound and personality.

Cannes Festival Premiere

Cuarn accompanied del Toro to the world premiere of PANS LABYRINTH at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. There was 22 minutes of applause. It was so beautiful to watch that, Cuarn recalls. This film is a big bang of Guillermo — if anything, the film shows Guillermos true
potential. Its the pinnacle of what hes been trying to do in his most personal films, like THE DEVILS BACKBONE and also HELLBOY, in which you have these comic book characters have highly metaphysical conversations. Guillermo masters the genre, but the story also expresses
his very personal philosophy.

He continues, These films are about moral choices. And they have to do with the universe of children, and how ideology becomes the first big trap and prison for humanity. What is amazing is how Guillermo juggles it all. He doesnt lose a beat of the suspense of the fantasy world that hes presenting. And he doesnt lose a beat in the political discourse that hes delivering. And within all that, there is the humanism of the piece.

Affirmation of Imagination

PANS LABYRINTH is an affirmation, serious and beautiful, of the centrality of stories and the imagination in withstanding the worlds horrors. Says del Toro, I know for a fact that imagination and hope have kept me alive through the roughest times in my life. Reality is brutal and it will kill you, make no mistake about it, but our tales, our creatures and our heroes have a chance to live longer than any of us. Franco suffocated Spain for decades as he tried to fashion it after what he believed to be good for her. Yet Spain didn't die; she exploded, vibrant and alive, in the 80s. Spain lived the 60s in the 80s and they are still feeling the aftershocks of such a wonderful explosion.