BAM Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updates
All live programs have been canceled and BAM Rose Cinemas is closed until further notice.
More Info


Oliver Sanders

Bard High School Early College, Sophomore

REVIEW | Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) directed by Guillermo del Toro

When making a film, lots of things need to be taken into account to make it really memorable. A director needs to not only help the actors and crew, but they need to bring their own unique style to it if they want to make it a film personal to them. And Pan’s Labyrinth definitely succeeds in being something completely unique through the vision of Guillermo Del Toro. He took childlike fairy tales and mixed it with brutal reality to create a product no one else could’ve made. This film has an amazing story and it’s perfectly directed to fit, with brilliant camerawork and, again, a style only this director could bring to life.

A reoccurring theme in the film is the idea of what's real and what's not. We are never told for certain whether Ofelia is just imagining the fantasy-like events that occur in the film. An argument could be made for both sides. There is a moment in the film where a faun gives Ofelia a piece of chalk to draw a door with, and a character named Mercedes finds the chalk door she drew. If she was imagining it, where did she get the chalk? However there is another moment in the film where Ofelia is being chased down by her stepfather, General Vidal, and she sees the faun and starts to talk to it; however when the general catches up to her he sees her talking to nothing. So was she imagining the faun? It’s hard to tell. Reality is constantly finding it's way into Ofelia's fairy-tales and vice versa. We see that some things that happen when she is in her world have lasting effects, while sometimes she is the only one who can see them.

Pan’s Labyrinth, Ivanna Baquero

Another aspect Del Toro really highlights in this film is the brutality of reality. Even in Ofelia’s fantasies, things can seem very real and grotesque. There is a scene where the general interrogates some people who have been found with weapons who claim to be hunters. Unconvinced by their story, the general stabs the older man repeatedly in the face until dead. This is an incredibly gruesome and hard-to-watch scene, and it’s the first time we see the general doing something truly horrific, setting up his character perfectly. Another cringe­worthy scene is where the general has had his mouth cut open, and we see in detail as he stitches it back together and then covers it up with gauze. He then takes a drink and looks pained as the gauze turns red and yellow. This is another scene that shows the general’s aggressiveness. One last example is when the faun asks Ofelia to go into the domain of the Pale Man. We see through paintings that the Pale Man is known for eating children, but Ofelia should be safe as long as she doesn’t eat anything from the Pale Man’s table. When we see the creature he looks shockingly real, and when Ofelia eats a singular grape from the table, we genuinely fear for her safety as the Pale Man awakens, despite the fact that this could just be part of her fantasy. It’s scenes like these that never let you forget that this is taking place in a real world, despite the fantasy elements.

Del Toro’s camera placement and scene execution is also not to be ignored. He takes the time to make sure you don’t forget a single scene in the movie; every moment is memorable and will stick with you for a long time. One of my favorite moments is when the general’s doctor stands up to the general and starts to walk away from him. The camera stays focused on the doctor as we see the general raise his gun in the background and we hear a gunshot. The doctor continues to walk, takes off his glasses, and finally collapses. This moment was set up so masterfully that I doubt I’ll be forgetting it anytime soon. There is another scene in the film where Ofelia and Mercedes are trying to run away from the general. They enter the woods and Mercedes hears something, the camera stays still as she turns around, and her umbrella blocks our view of anything behind her. She then figures that it was nothing and turns around, revealing the general and several of his men. It’s scenes like this that make the film really unforgettable.

This is a film I will never forget. Guillermo Del Toro’s unique style and direction gives it a tone and feel that is impossible to replicate. The way it mixes fantasy and reality is perfect, and it’s also an amazingly put-together story. Few films can reach the level of perfection that this film does, from the camerawork to the way it makes everything feel like it’s really happening in reality, even in the most abstract moments. It’s clear from the very first scene that this is something only this director could’ve made as good as it is. I enjoyed many of the films we watched in this program, but none of them had as huge an impact on me as this one.