Analysis of Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth
Del Toro is an erudite creator to whom the images and icons of past ages are the manifold fragments of an occult and mystic truth. In his point of view, directing a film is the art of putting together those fragments in a coherent discourse. Hence, in Pan's Labyrinth a broken watch can speak to the viewer with the same power as the acting does. Del Toro's filming transforms statue into actor and actor into statue, because the lineament of the image and the meaning they convey are worthy of dramatic emotion.
Sound bridges serve the same purpose. The Captain’s traditional songs played on a wind-up gramophone (one, incongruous in this damp, dark Northern setting, is called “Gardens of Granada”) are first sourced in his all-too-real bedroom but are held on to play over scenes set in Ofelia’s fantasy chambers. The clucking of the fairy-stick insect is made to merge with the ticking of the Captain’s stopwatch. The intricate parallel plotting, by del Toro himself of course, heightens or tightens this tense and intense connection. Ofelia must retrieve a key from a viscous ball vomited by the toad, just as Mercedes must guard, in real life, a secret key to the storeroom. Or again, Ofelia gets hold of a fantasy dagger in her second trial, just as Mercedes keeps in her apron a knife with which she will slice open the Captain’s cheek (“You’re not the first pig I’ve gutted”). Sometimes fantasy anticipates reality: a bloody stain spreads on the pages of Ofelia’s magical book, just as (in the next shot) her mother’s nightdress is drenched with blood as she nearly suffers a miscarriage. But at others it runs parallel to reality: Ofelia places under her mother’s bed a mandrake root, bathed in milk and fed on blood, which mirrors the real-life fetus that drains the mother of life. The sinister faux baby squirms and squeals when thrown on the fire. Finally, fantasy may follow reality. A luscious feast of blood-red berries and jellies, guarded by Doug Jones’s truly disturbing Pale Man (his eyeballs inserted into the palms of his hands), echoes the real-life dinner for the Francoist victors presided over by the sadistic Captain, which we have already been shown.