Blu-ray/DVD Review: PAN'S LABYRINTH (2006)
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Whenever anyone asks me what is my top favorite movie of all time, I easily tell them Guillermo del Toro‘s PAN’S LABYRINTH. Coming out in 2006, the film arrived right when I was really starting to explore my own personal tastes in genre, which led me deep within the realm of horror and fantasy. As an avid reader of world mythologies, folklore and fairytales at that time, the tone and handling of the subject matter in PAN’S LABYRINTH came to represent the need for traditional storytelling rooted somewhat in reality. It differed greatly from the Disney animated movies that I had been spoonfed as a child. As such, the film has come to represent a defining time for me and, when told that the film would be coming out in 4K, I relished the thought of being able to watch the movie to see how the magical nature of the film would be brought further to life.

PAN’S LABYRINTH takes place in 1944 in Spain. It is during a time of great worldwide political upheaval as the Allies have invaded Nazi-held Europe. However, in the midst of all of this, Spain is still recovering from the Civil War that took place years prior as soldiers are sent to try to quash rebellions where they erupt. This is how we are introduced to Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), an eleven-year-old girl whose feet are struggling to stay planted in fantasy while the reality of violence and brutality. This brutality is carried out by her step-father, Capitan Vidal (Sergi Lopez), who is a raging sadist and has no qualms about it. All he desires is to crush the rebels who would dare go against him and country. While adjusting to her new life with her step-father and dealing with the struggle of remaining obedient in the midst of great suffering, Ofelia is drawn into a magical labyrinth, where she meets the Fauno (played by Doug Jones) and is given a book and three tasks to accomplish.

While Ofelia struggles to make sure that she tackles these tasks, her pregnant mother Carmen (Ariadna Gil) is getting sicker. The son growing inside of her is leaching away her strength and Vidal is too preoccupied with his need to shed blood to be there. Things eventually culminate in an act of ultimate defiance from Ofelia, which claims her life. However, she is rewarded after death with the discovery that she, perhaps, is the lost princess that this mystical world has been waiting for. That ending is left mostly up for interpretation from the audience, but I prefer to believe that she was the lost princess.

First off, the acting is phenomenal as is the storytelling. The casting of Ivana Baquero as the young Ofelia is perfect and you can’t help believing what she believes as she struggles to process the events of everything around her. She’s in the in-between place that adolescence can feel like, desperately clutching onto her childhood and learning powerful lessons along the way. As the Capitan, Sergi Lopez is still terrifying. The cruelty of his expressions conveys the unpredictable nature of the Capitan and, as such, allows the audience to firmly believe that he is truly going insane and is grasping at straws by the time the film concludes. Doug Jones is, as always, amazing as Fauno, but who would have doubted that.

The 4K format really works well for this edition of PAN’S LABYRINTH I’m not super familiar with film formatting or how things like the transfer process impact quality of film, but the process of adapting del Toro’s film to 4K didn’t hamper the overall quality of the film. In fact, I think it greatly enhances the details that del Toro and his team added across the entirety of the film. It shows in the set design to the spiral swirls within the Faun’s skin to the amplification in quality of the CGI fairies included in arguably one of the most memorable scenes. One really can’t help but fall in love further with the film’s beauty. While the new 4K edition may not have all of the special extras like its preceding special edition (the Centurion edition, I believe), the 4K is really the star here.

Overall, it is clear for both fans old and new alike that PAN’S LABYRINTH still stands strong more than a decade later. This film harks back to a time when fairytales were dark and filled with life lessons prior to the tales being taken up by Disney’s more family-friendly hands. The meat of the story reflects a lesson on the good that moral disobedience can bring, but doesn’t shy away from revealing the brutal reality of said disobedience. In terms of the 4K, it accentuates all of the carefully crafted details and care that the creative team poured into this project. As such, I highly recommend everyone add this 4K edition to their shelves ASAP.

PAN’S LABYRINTH is now available to own on 4K UHD Combo Pack and Digital. Bring the faun home and make sure that you stay on guard. It’s not all it appears to be.

Sarah Musnicky
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