Pan's Labyrinth (New Line Two-Disc Platinum Series) (2006)

Actors: Ivana Baquero, Sergi López, Maribel Verdú, Doug Jones, Ariadna Gil
Guillermo del Toro
AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, DVD-Video, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
Region: 1 (U.S. and Canada only)
Aspect Ratio:
Number of discs:
New Line Home Video
Run Time:
119 minutes

DVD Features:

  • Available Subtitles: English
  • Available Audio Tracks: Spanish (Unknown Format)
  • Video prologue by Guillermo Del Toro
  • Commentary by director Guillermo Del Toro
  • Featurettes:
    -The Power of Myth
    -The Faun and the Fairies
    -The Color and The Shape
  • The Charlie Rose Show featuring director Guillermo Del Toro
  • The Director's Notebook
  • Production sketches
  • Storyboard video prologue by Guillermo del Toro
  • Storyboard/thumbnail compares
  • Theatrical teaser and trailer, TV spots



When a movie comes one’s way with as much critical accolades as Pan’s Labyrinth has garnered, it is sometimes easy to be disappointed. It wasn’t that good, one almost always ends up saying.

Pan’s Labyrinth may not have won Best Film at this year’s Oscars (it only got three Academy Awards) but, not only did it score a whopping 96% approval rating on, but the film found itself on no less than 130 top ten lists upon its release. “The best film of the year,” an authority no less than horror author Stephen King claimed in Entertainment Weekly. “Fries your nerves and fires your imagination,” the usually overenthusiastic Peter Travers of Rolling Stone also gushed.

However, in the case of Pan’s Labyrinth the critical praise is actually justified. Yes, it really is that good.

Directed by Mexican-born director Guillermo del Toro of Mimic, Blade II and Hellboy fame, Pan’s Labyrinth can be best described as a dark fantasy tale. Set in Fascist Spain in 1944, it tells the story of a little girl named Ofelia who moves with her mother to a new home in the mountains to live with her new stepfather, Vidal, simply referred to everyone who knows him as “The Captain.”

“The Captain” is commanding an outpost responsible for squashing the few remaining Anarchist rebels living in the mountains who are under the impression that the Spanish Civil War is still being fought. As far as lost causes go, few were as lost as the Anarchist cause during the Spanish Civil War: the war was largely over by 1939 and Franco would rule over a Fascist Spain until his death in 1975, upon which the Bourbon monarchy was restored. “Everybody knows the war is over,” as Leonard Cohen famously sang once. “Everybody knows the good guys lost . . .”

“The Captain” (Sergi López) is a nasty piece of work, one of the most hateful villains in recent movie history. Authoritarian and cruel, torturing and summarily executing innocent peasants, he is only interested in the son that his new wife will bear him and largely ignores Ofelia. “The Captain” could easily have been played as a hammy movie villain, rolling his moustache villain the way Chow-Yun Fat does as the evil Emperor in Curse of the Golden Flower. Instead he is a malignant and threatening presence that seems to hover over the film’s proceedings. Underplaying the character was a wise choice.

An even bigger surprise is the 12-year-old Ivana Baquero as Ofelia. Child actors are usually terrible, but Baquero displays an unexpected maturity in her depiction of the character. At once responsible and childish in the way that an only child can be, Baquero admirably carries the movie on her slender shoulders. Largely ignored, Ofelia spends her time in the woods where she discovers an ancient maze inhabited by a mythical creature called a faun half-man, half-goat named Pan. Pan tells Ofelia that she is actually a princess from an underground kingdom. To escape the brutal realities of a war-torn Spain and return to her kingdom she must perform three tests all of them dangerous and all of them involving menacing creatures.

Is Pan telling the truth? Is Ofelia simply imagining it all? Part of the movie’s tension derives from these questions. Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers is right when he states on the DVD's cover that Pan’s Labyrinth frays the viewer’s nerves. This is a dark, violent fairy tale for adults and is not suited for small children at all. (You’d be mad to make them watch it.) In fact the few critics on Rotten Tomatoes, who did not like the film, cited the violence as being the main reason for not having enjoyed the film at all. Violent and nerve-wrecking it may be, but Pan’s Labyrinth is also unexpectedly moving and emotionally involving. The ending is simply gut-wrenching and beautiful at the same time. This is a movie that could only have been made outside of Hollywood as it simply tramples underfoot many of Hollywood’s unwritten rules and by establishing that fact early on Pan’s Labyrinth is all the more powerful for it.

Yes, Pan’s Labyrinth deserves all the accolades thrown at it by critics. It simply has to be seen by more serious-minded filmgoers. Sensitive viewers should beware though, but they risk missing out on a remarkable film-going experience . . .



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