Pan's Labyrinth

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 April, 2011, 12:00am


Starring: Ivana Baquero
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Year of original release: 2006
Genre: dark fantasy


Pan's Labyrinth is a Spanish-language fantasy written and directed by Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro. The movie is based on the hundreds of sketches del Toro made in his notebooks for 20 years.

The movie's central character is a faun, a mythical half-human, half-goat creature. As a child del Toro used to imagine the beast stepping out of his family's old grandfather clock.

Del Toro is a brilliantly imaginative filmmaker and his creativity is on full display in Pan's Labyrinth. It's a beautiful and unique piece of filmmaking. The movie won Academy Awards.


It's 1944, and the civil war in Spain is over. But pockets of antigovernment rebels are hiding in the mountains. A girl called Ofelia travels with her mother to visit her new stepfather, a cruel army captain stationed deep in the Spanish countryside.

Ofelia is feeling lonely and finds refuge in fairy tales. She begins to create imaginary fantasy worlds. She meets a fairy who takes her to a faun living in a dark and mysterious maze, or labyrinth. The faun tells Ofelia that she is a princess from an underground realm and that she must undertake three dangerous assignments so she can reunite with her father, the king.

Meanwhile, Ofelia befriends Mercedes, the sister of one of the rebels. Soon, Ofelia is drawn into both her dark imaginary world and the harsh realities of war.

Into the labyrinth

The Minotaur was a fearsome, half-bull, half-man creature who lived in a labyrinth under the King of Crete's palace. Each year the king sacrificed seven young men and seven young women to the monster, who ate them. No one who entered the labyrinth came out alive - until, that is, Theseus, a Greek warrior.

The king's beautiful daughter, Ariadne, was in love with Theseus and she came up with a cunning plan to save his life. She gave him a ball of wool which he unwound as he walked into the labyrinth so he could retrace his steps and find his way out. Theseus killed the Minotaur and walked back out.

Spaniard versus Spaniard

In 1931, the Spanish monarchy fell and was replaced by the democratically elected, reformist government of the Second Republic. The Second Republic's leaders wanted to redistribute land and wealth while breaking the Church's and the aristocrats' centuries-old hold on power.

In 1936, fighting broke out between the supporters of the Second Republic and their opponents, the Nationalists. The Nationalists were led by General Francisco Franco, who managed to crush the Republican movement by 1939.

Franco became leader of the new Spain, staying in power until his death in 1975, when king Juan Carlos revived Spain's monarchy after a break of 45 years. Spain now had a royal family again and went on to become democratic once more.

Let me out!

Mazes and labyrinths have been built for centuries to confuse, frighten and challenge people. Sometimes a maze is there simply to entertain; sometimes it is built with a sinister purpost in mind.

A maze is a structure with a choice of directions to get to its centre (and back out again), while a babyrinth has a single non-branching path to get you to the centre.

The world's largest maze today is the Dole Pineapple Garden Maze in Hawaii. It has 4 kilometres of twisting paths and covers an area of 1.2 hectares. Stations help visitors find their way around the maze, whose walls are made from bushes, plants and trees.

Near the town of Fontanellato in Italy, gardeners and designers are working on a gigantic bamboo maze, which will be five times larger than the pineapple maze. Due to open next year, it will cover an astonishing seven hectares.

Hiding in the woods

A faun is a male creature from Roman and Greek mythology. It has a human torso and head (with a pair of horns on top) and the back legs of a goat. In their spare time, it was said, fauns played music on their pipes. The faun, still a popular creature in fantasy novels and movies, lives in dark woodlands and at remote wild locations.

The most powerful faun in Roman mythology was Pan, the god of nature, shepherds, mountains and forests.

One of the most famous fauns in modern fiction is Mister Tumnus in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis. Fauns also crop up in Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson novels.