Exploring Pan’s Labyrinth

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Exploring Pan’s Labyrinth

Guillermo del Toro's dark fairytale Pan's Labyrinth takes place in 1944 fascist Spain, where the young stepdaughter of a cruel army captain discovers a sinister yet enticing magical world.

Before he played the lovable, only semi-intimidating amphibian man in Guillermo del Toro’s 2017 film The Shape of Water, Doug Jones acted as two of del Toro’s slightly more horrifying creations—the Faun and the Pale Man, both of whom give del Toro’s 2006 dark fantasy Pan’s Labyrinth a touch of absolute terror. Possessing perhaps even more of a fairytale structure than its successor, Pan’s Labyrinth tells the story of Ofelia, an eleven-year-old girl living in 1944 fascist Spain who finds herself immersed in the trials of both the real and magical worlds. As her cruel stepfather (Captain Vidal) endangers Ofelia and her mother (Carmen) by using their home as the base of a military operation to kill remaining post-Civil War guerrilla fighters, Ofelia forms a relationship with a menacing yet strangely supportive faun (cue Doug Jones), who insists that she is a reincarnation of the princess of the underworld. The faun explains that, to prove herself worthy of returning to her throne, Ofelia must complete three dangerous missions after passing through three portals to the underworld. Face-to-face with a war in the human world and monsters (cue more Doug Jones) in the underworld, young Ofelia embodies the ultimate warrior.

Out of Pan’s Labyrinth’s 122 scenes, Scriptonomic’s software has deemed scenes 15-37, 105-109, and 70-74 most significant. All three of these scenes display battles, whether they’re between Captain Vidal and the Spanish rebels or Ofelia and del Toro’s famous monsters. These battles are primal and physical—the best man, girl, or monster wins, not the most cunning with words, so as you’d expect, the script is 65.5% action, 34.5% dialogue (Fig. 1). Because Ofelia’s three magical trials take place in enclosed, underground spaces, Scriptonomics categorizes 67.2% of Pan’s Labyrinth’s scenes as internal (meaning that they take place inside). But don’t worry, landscape lovers—the film’s 86 total shooting locations include a winding, overgrown labyrinth, Spanish woods, and mystical riverbeds. With just 41 characters in total, Pan’s Labyrinth depicts nuanced, engaging conflict between Ofelia and her family members, mythical monsters, and the Spanish military.

(Fig. 1)

Most of the confrontations in the film are physical rather than verbal, especially those between Ofelia and the underworld’s monsters, who have no dialogue and who (I’m assuming) don’t speak Spanish or English anyway. Scene 59, for example, in which Ofelia faces the dreaded Pale Man, consists of 99% action and 1% dialogue (Fig. 2). Because of the language barrier, Ofelia and the Pale Man resort to stealing, running, and chasing—all universal signs of clear, unadulterated conflict. The length of this scene (it’s the longest in the film) coupled with its lack of dialogue makes for something the viewers probably aren’t very used to—giving them the same sense of unfamiliarity that Ofelia feels in her new, magical world, and as a result, reinforcing the relatability of her character.

(Fig. 2)

The fairytale nature of the film is illustrated most clearly by each character’s percentage of overall dialogue and appearance. The Faun, who tells Ofelia about her past life, her future missions, and the locations of the three portals (all of these pieces of information are absolutely essential to the narrative), accounts for 10.5% of the film’s total dialogue, but only appears periodically throughout the film (Fig. 3) in only four locations (Fig. 4) and 2.89% of the film’s overall scenes—embodying the classic fairy godmother role. In true Disney fashion, Carmen, Ofelia’s sickly, pregnant mother, is practically absent from the entire film, appearing in only 6.14% of its 122 scenes (Fig. 5) and thereby leaving Ofelia on her own to explore both the real and magical worlds. No fairytale is complete without a central villain whose demise results from his tendency to confidently overshare his schemes. As the viewers know from Captain Vidal’s inability to stop talking about them, he is no stranger to schemes. Responsible for 24.4% of the film’s total dialogue (a higher percentage than any other character) (see Fig. 6), the psychopathic Captain meets his end by mentioning his battle plans in front of Mercedes, his housekeeper, who just happens to be a rebel spy.

(Fig. 3)

(Fig. 4)

(Fig. 5)

(Fig. 6)

Guillermo del Toro is almost as magical as his story; with a humble budget of $19 million, he managed to create a film with chillingly believable monsters, out of this world (literally) scenery, 86 locations (64 of which are only used once), 41 characters, an original score, and plenty of blood and guts. If the Faun is the fairy godmother, del Toro is the wizard. His secret? Makeup and stamina. According to IndieWire (click here for a link to the article ), Doug Jones spent five hours in the makeup chair every day before putting on his latex foam faun costume, which included 10-pound horns and 8-inch stilts. Relying on animatronics and complex makeup rather than CGI, Pan’s Labyrinth managed to turn a $19 million-budget movie into a worldwide phenomenon with an $83 million box-office total.

The box-office total doesn’t lie—people all over the world love Pan’s Labyrinth. And what’s not to like? Boasting family drama, mythical monsters, military combat, childhood nostalgia, murder, and, of course, Doug Jones, Pan’s Labyrinth has a little bit of everything.

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