Pan's Labyrinth

The other side of the pro-franco mirror

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Who said fairy tales solely aimed at kids, psychoanalysts and the mentally retarded? A peremptory affirmation point blank refuted by Pan's Labyrinth.

Born and nurtured over several years by Mexican Guillermo Del Toro, hailed as the “Master of Horror” after such films as Mimic, Blade II, The devil’s Backbone and Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth takes place in Spain, by the end of the Civil War. More precisely still, it is set up in a farm nested in the thick of the woods, a place taken over by a small fascist garrison and where a mother and her daughter arrive, condemned, one against the other, to live with Captain Vidal, a cruel and well-groomed officer. Playing the part, a miscast Sergi Lopez, rigid, gaunt, showing an unexpected innocence in the most gruesome torture scenes. In short, the Devil in disguise. He is the true monster of the film…

While her pregnant mother shows a fearful and docile obedience to her new husband, the girl explores the ruins and, seemingly out of sheer willpower, opens doors to another world, an underground universe of Dantesque creatures and wonders, of huge batrachians and Tinkerbelles more brazen than that of Peter Pan. And while her stepfather frantically hunts the last partisans, she makes a pact with a faun, decamps in front of a flabby demon with eyes on the palm of his hands…

Mixing fiction and History with a capital H, Guillermo Del Toro brilliantly manages the fusion, the mixture of genres, yet without one encroaching upon the other. In both recreating the advent of the pro-Franco era and inventing a fantasy world half way between Lovecraft and Lewis Carroll, Guillermo Del Toro shows skill, sincerity, just the right amount of virtuosity, Gothic sense when needed, and a gripping authenticity at the right times. As much guided by his aesthetic instinct as by the Spanish masters of Baroque painting, the director is not “only” the architect of a mythology between reality and supernatural, but also a dream teller, an artist with a heart. And, in Le labyrinthe de Pan, is heart is as big as it comes.

Marc Toullec - translator VAmathe