Five years after the end of the Spanish Civil War, mopping up operations continue against the remaining rebels. The step-daughter of the fascist commander, not a very nice man, escapes into a fantasy world, but also carries messages to and from the rebels. The fantasy element is beautifully and convincingly rendered, so we have a film with a most unusual mix: fantasy, politics and military operations. Del Toro’s achievement is to make this work exquisitely well. (119 mins)
Dir: Guillermo del Toro, Spain 2006

Programme Notes

PAN’S LABYRINTH (El Laberinto del Fauno)
Spain/Mexico/USA 2006 119 minutes

Spain, 1944, five years after Franco’s victory in the Civil War. The widowed Carmen and her daughter Ofelia join new husband/stepfather Vidal to proceed to the latter’s posting in the north of the country. Carmen is pregnant by Vidal, who is in charge of operations to dispose of a pocket of resistance. Ofelia discovers a labyrinth in the forest and therein a faun who introduces her to a world rather different from the brutal reality of her new surroundings. The other world in the film is that of the maquis, based in the forest, who have links to brave sympathisers and helpers amongst the fascists.

The sequence of the Mexican Del Toro’s features is fascinating. Among them is CRONOS (1993), screened by abcd in a rough 16mm print about five years go, and negatively received by our audience, who plainly did not like the horror genre in general nor this particular token of it, despite its subtleties. By contrast, Almodovar tapped del Toro on the shoulder at a film festival and said it was so good he wanted to work with him and indeed did later produce THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE (2001). Like tonight’s film, it combines the themes of patriarchy, war (the Spanish one again) and the child up against hateful authority figures – and, nearly forgot to say, it’s another “classy Hispanic horror pic” (Time Out Film Guide). In betweentimes Del Toro made MIMIC (1997), BLADE II (2002) and HELLBOY (2004), well received US genre productions, which shows us a director who perhaps doesn’t give a damn for our precious distinctions between the art film (sic) and commercial product. He’s an artist, for sure.

‘I wanted to represent political power within the creatures,’ del Toro says. ‘And that particular character somehow came to represent the church and the devouring of children. The original design was just an old man who seemed to have lost a lot of weight and was covered in loose skin. Then I removed the face, so it became part of the personality of the institution. But then, what to do about the eyes? So I decided to place stigmata on the hands and shove the eyes into the stigmata. Having done that, I thought it would be great to make the fingers like peacock feathers that fluff and open. That’s how that figure evolved.

‘The faun proved more difficult. The idea was to make him very masculine, not aggressively so, just sinuous. I remember talking to Doug Jones [who plays both the faun and the pale man] when he first started working on the role and saying, “More Mick Jagger, less David Bowie!” I wanted the faun to have a rock star quality. Everything about the faun and his personality needed to be masculine because you had to pit the female energy of the girl against something monolithic.’ (Mark Kermode interview with del Toro, Sight and Sound,December 2006)

Captain – Vidal Sergi López
Director & screenplay – Guillermo del Toro
Mercedes – Maribel Verdú
Cinematography – Guillermo Navarro
Ofelia – Ivana Baquero
Production Design – Eugenio Caballero
Doctor – Alex Ángulo
Editor – Bernat Vilaplana
Pan – Doug Jones
Music – Javier Navarrete
Father – Eusebio Lázaro
Producers – Berha Navarro, Alfonso Cuarón, Frida Torresblanco & Álvaro Augustin


“Life changing! I don’t think I’ll ever be the same again. I’m so glad I came.”

“Astonishing. Very powerful – brilliant. Fabulous ‘y genia’!”

“Fantastic spheroids”

“Haunting music – totally riveting. I didn’t even realise I was reading the sub-titles. Fascinating and exciting – most unusual.”

“The combination of the real world and the supernatural was superbly done. Reminded one of Japanese films and even more of Shakespeare, eg Macbeth. The violence was justified.”

“Amazing. I’m 100% confused. too much gore and cruelty. The various previews gave no indication of the truly hideous aspects of this film. Many resonances, eg, Tolkien, Company of Wolves, etc.”

“Very compelling – unusually, not a sound from the audience! Shades of Shakespeare’s plays. Haunting, with occasionally surprisingly inappropriate music which caught my attention. A fairy story almost too sloppy at times.”

“Powerful entwining of two quite separate plots. Violence and torture too much but (that’s) probably how it was.”

“Brilliant. The only two ways you can fight fascism – and still you lose!”

“Redemption is alive and well.”

“Weird combination but a good, effective film. Very gory.”

“Two films in one. (From the) sublime to the ridiculous – I loved it and hated it!”

“Two stories in one film – both well acted twaddle!”

“An aberrant mixture of fairy tale and reality (but) still (it was) moving with excellent action.”

“Gruesome – a real mixture of fantasy and reality.”

“Very well done but I truly cannot say I enjoyed it.”

“Technically amazing but not for me!”

“A dark and violent Alice (in Wonderland).”

“Vraiment, l’après-midi d’un faun.”

“Not sure I got all the symbolism but fascinating (nevertheless).”

“Symbolism too heavy – too much gore”

“Probably a bit too graphic but without the horror, it would not have worked.”

“Ask me tomorrow what I thought of this!”


A:26, B:15, C:4, D:2, E:0 to give 85%