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Guest Blog | A Love Letter to Pan's Labyrinth | Emma Berry

Another love letter to a fantastic film. This one was written by the wonderful Emma Berry. Check out her stuff over at @emmaberrysworld


I first watched Pan’s Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro, 2006) when I was 16, and I remember not being too fussed about it. Even when I used to blog, I only ranked it middle of the pack in a list on the foreign language films I own. It’s only when I had the opportunity to study it in university, that I really fell in love with it.

Del Toro does a magnificent job at creating an adult fairy tale that has me coming back time and time again.

The quintessential conventions from fairy tales have been interwoven so well to allow spectators to escape the real world of fighting Guerillas and Capitàn Vidal’s (Sergi López) sadistic actions.

The characters are so compelling, mirroring the archetypal fairy tales characters in their own creepy and mesmerising way. Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) embodies the eternal child, with her curiosity, innocence and rule breaking with very little regard for the consequences. It’s so refreshing to see a child on an adventure make mistakes and not be the perfect protagonist. I’ve found in other fairy tales, especially Disney films, the protagonist is flawless, and everyone else around them makes the mistakes.

The mise-en-scene is stunning, and I always notice something new when I watch. The imagery of a fallopian tube, meant to represent the themes of birth or rebirth, is referenced throughout the film. Whilst some of the more obvious references to this imagery happens when Ofelia opens the book, or through the Faun’s (Doug Jones) horns, there are some more subtle nods, such as the pattern engraved on the bed that Ofelia and her Mother, Carmen (Ariadna Gil) share. Coupled with the darker colours for the real world, and brighter colours for the more fantastical world, this specific imagery is just gorgeous. I can’t get enough of it, and adore noticing it whenever I rewatch the film.

I can’t write about Pan’s Labyrinth and not praise Doug Jones on his acting, both as the Faun, and the Pale Man. To prepare for playing the Faun, Jones learnt his spoken lines in Spanish, which is a dedicated to the role I admire so much. He says the lines so convincingly, with an almost alluring tone to them, that I can’t help but believe the Faun’s intentions are always the right intentions. How he portrays the Faun when he’s happy, really reminds me of a child, linking back to that notion of the eternal child and innocence.

But it’s his portrayal of the Pale Man that steals the show. For a character that doesn’t speak, the Pale Man is truly terrifying. Harkening back to folklore, where the Pale Man is already a nightmarish figure, to have it bought to life just adds to the horror of the creature. The sounds from the Pale Man, from his creaks and cracks, to his scream are truly horrifying. The character as a whole is just embedded in my mind as one of the best horror and fairytale characters in recent films.

Finally, I can’t do a love letter to my favourite film and not talk about the score. Javier Navarrete composed such a beautiful, haunting score that perfectly encapsulates the cinematography and mise-en-scene. It’s so visual, that listening to it without the film is just as powerful and emotive as it is with the film, which very film scores succeed to do. Accompanied with reading the novelisation of the book and what you have is the perfect setting, no matter where you’re reading it from. I digress, I could go on and on about why this score is just wonderful and visceral this score is, but I know I’d only repeat the positives I’ve said about it. If you ever get the chance, listen to it without the film on, it’s such a relaxing thing to do, just listen to and appreciate a good film score.

Whilst I resisted the urge to breakdown every individual thing I love about Pan’s Labyrinth, I’m going to leave my love letter here, so I don’t repeat myself. I highly recommend you watch this film and just take it all in. I hope you like it.


Originally published on Tumblr on 28th March 2020


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