Pan’s Labyrinth

Original title: El Laberinto del Fauno

This blend of harsh reality and dark fantasy has been praised as much as anything currently in theatres, and it is one of the few non-English films to receive widespread release throughout North America.

Directed and written by Guillermo del Toro


Ivana Baquero as Ofelia
Ariadna Gil as Carmen Vidal
Sergi López as Captain Vidal
Yolanda Vazquez as Mercedes
Maribel Verdú as Delores
Doug Jones as Pan/Pale Man
Álex Angulo as Dr. Ferreiro
Additional cast information available here

Production design by Eugenio Caballero


After her widowed mother marries a sadistic fascist captain, a young girl in 1944 Spain escapes into a magical world which may prove as dark as the real one.

Or, perhaps, a denizen of the underworld has been trapped in the form of a young girl, and struggles to return home.

High Points:

Del Toro’s deft blending of brutal reality and faerie-realm fantasy is remarkable. The shifts do not seem abrupt, and events in each world comment on the other. The film also does a remarkable job of weaving together different narrative threads into a complete piece.

Low Point:

I was willing to accept Ofelia eating the grapes, since she is a child, hungry, and that is the sort of thing people inevitably do in faerie tales. However, I had trouble believing that Mercedes does not murder the captain when she has the chance. It contradicts what we know about her character and the circumstances. Obviously, they wanted the captain alive for the conclusion. It strikes me there are many ways to write that scene that would arrive at the same outcome, without suspending plausibility.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6 The idea of someone using imaginative stories to escape from a bleak world, in a way which enhances our understanding of that world, is not new. Many of the elements in the film will be familiar to those who have read many myths and faeries tales—- or watched movies or played videogames inspired by the same.1 Del Toro’s handling of these elements plays as relatively fresh, thanks to the design of Ofelia’s netherworld and the setting of fascist Spain.

Effects: 6/6 The effects have been integrated seamlessly with the live action.

Story: 5/6.

Acting: 6/6 The film features strong performances from the entire cast, including an accomplished one from 12-year-old Ivana Baquero.

Production: 6/6

Emotional Response: 6/6. Del Toros has crafted a powerful film. The violence is disturbing when it occurs because, though often severe, it is not needlessly emphasized, nor does the film present brutality as rollicking fun.

Overall: 6/6.


1.The fact has led to heated discussions at the Internet Movie Database, where various posters claim that Pan’s Labyrinth rips off this film or that source. Search and you’ll even find someone who believes the use of the mandrake root was stolen from Harry Potter, you know, where it “first” appeared.

3 replies on “Pan’s Labyrinth”

  1. Ofelia and the …
    …grapes. Of course if she did complete all of the tasks she would become the princess and thus end the fantasy. So, there is always the possibility that her sub-conscious was ensuring she would fail somewhere and thus allow her to keep the fantasy alive. I agree about Mercedes, although that did allow for some effective special effects later.

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