Pan’s Labyrinth

Pan’s Labyrinth won the 2007 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form, beating four other films which I have not seen, though in each case I have read the book on which they were based (Children of Men, The Prestige, V for Vendetta and A Scanner Darkly). It was in fact narrowly behind The Prestige at the nominations round, but had a strong lead on the final ballot (in which The Prestige came third behind Children of Men).

Pan’s Labyrinth is ranked 5th and 6th of that year’s films by IMDB users, with The Prestige, The Departed and 300 ahead of it on both rankings.

Pan's Labyrinth

None of the actors have appeared in other Hugo-winning, Oscar-winning or Nebula-winning films, or in Doctor Who. Seriously impressed, however, by Doug Jones as Fauno, the main monster; we know him as Baru from Star Trek: Discovery. Apparently he learned Spanish specially for this film (though in fact his voice is dubbed).

I’ve seen two other del Toro films – Hellboy II and The Shape of Water – and liked Pan’s Labyrinth almost as much as The Shape of Water, which is to say, quite a lot. It’s in Spanish, making it the second film in a language other than English to win the Hugo (the first being Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). The setting is the early years of the Franco regime, shortly after the Civil War. The protagonist, Ofelia, played superbly by 11-year-old Ivana Bauero, crosses back and forth between the otherworldly Labyrinth dominated by Doug Jones’ Fauno, and our world where her Falangist stepfather is hunting down Communists in the woods and her pregnant mother is slowly dying.

I thought it was superbly done. The CGI and other effects of the Labyrinth are totally convincing; the humans of 1940s Spain are more monstrous than the monsters; Ofelia’s own heroic journey is sympathetically depicted. I’ll reserve judgement until I have seen The Prestige, but I felt that the Hugo voters that year knew what they were doing.

3 thoughts on “Pan’s Labyrinth

  1. Doug Jones is one of the few people I can recognise by his fingers. Much like several Klingon/Narn actors, I tend to forget what he looks like when he’s not covered in alien SFX.

    I loved the film The Prestige, and keep meaning to read the book, but I suspect you will find all of the characters vividly unsympathetic. They’re very Nolan, so obsessive men with obsessive plans, filmed with technical excellence.

    Children of Men I found enjoyably satirical and suitably bleak.

    V for Vendetta I enjoyed, and Scanner Darkly is not as good as the book but …

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