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  • Writer's pictureVanessa Rocha

A Foreign Film Gem - Pan's Labyrinth

When you think of foreign films, you’d probably think of over-dramatized stories, or something so avant-garde that you don’t understand what’s going on at all. Well, even if it’s over-dramatized and it’s so avant-garde, it’s still one of the best foreign films in modern history. I’m talking about the critically acclaimed film, Pan’s Labyrinth (2006).

There’s a reason it’s hailed as one of the best foreign language films in modern history. It really is a visual treat for fantasy filmmakers. Not only that, but it’s also subtle when considering the delivery of its underlying messages and themes. You only need to look at the parallels between the “reality” in the film and Ofelia’s fantastical adventures. If you’re not convinced, here are a few reasons why Pan’s Labyrinth is a must-watch foreign film classic.

The Fantasy And Folklore

One of the best things about Pan’s Labyrinth is the accurate portrayal of old myths and legends, and the folklore surrounding the fairy and fae. For those of us who actually know the folklore, the fairy and fae are the complete opposite of the Disney-fide versions we’re used to, or the watered-down Grimm Brothers’ version either. The original myths and legends tell a completely different and sometimes even horrific version of the tales we know and love. Not only that, but they give advice on how to combat these fantastical creatures.

For example, if you’re ill or suffering from a health condition, leave some mandrake and other healing herbs under your bed to promote healing and recovery, just like what Ofelia does to help her mother through the difficulties of her pregnancy. Not only that, but the faun who guides Ofelia through her challenges tells her not to trust anything, even himself, which is good advice. For those of us who know our folklore and fairytales, you’d know not to trust any fae, because they could easily find loopholes in any deal you make with them.

So, if you’re interested in original fairytales and folklore, Pan’s Labyrinth is an amazing representation of all things fantasy and magical.

The Animatronics & Costumes

One of the best reasons why Pan’s Labyrinth is one of the greatest foreign-language films in film history is the use of animatronics and their very complicated costume design. Granted, CGI, animation and 3D special effects were around, but it was still in a rather primitive time. It’s not as advanced as it is today, like with Marvel’s ageing technology, or Star Wars’ realistic creatures. So, how did they achieve such realistic characters? Easy, animatronics and costumes.

They even did a few mini documentaries about them, specifically on the Pale Man and the faun. These documentaries show just how intricate and detailed these costumes were; how complicated they were to assemble and how much time and effort it took to make the characters seem real, when they were finally on their actors. Look at the Pale Man, for example. While, nowadays, you can CGI eyes onto hands, like they did in a few of the episodes for Once Upon A Time (2011 – 2018), back then, that technology wasn’t around, so they used robotics, makeup, prosthetics and costume design to make those eyes look real. I don’t know about you, but that character design wasn’t only horrific, but incredibly real to me.

A Parallel or Reality

One of the beautiful things about Pan’s Labyrinth is the fact that you don’t know if Ofelia’s adventures are just her fantasy or if they are real events taking place alongside the “reality” she lives in. In my opinion, it’s a mixture of both. After all, she returns home muddied and covered in toad guts, with a magical key in her hand; she just manages to close the door to the Pale Man’s lair before Mercedes bursts into her room, and she speaks to the faun just before her stepfather arrives.

Not only that, but I also love how Guillermo Del Toro himself doesn’t know whether Ofelia’s adventures are real or not. So, it’s completely up to you whether you believe her fantasy adventures are real, or whether they simply parallel the reality she’s living through. Personally, I think it’s a mix of both, after all, as Dumbledore one said “Of course, it’s all in your head…but why on earth should that mean that it’s not real?”

Convinced Yet?

So, I truly recommend watching Pan’s Labyrinth. If you’re into fantasy films, if you’re interested in foreign-language films, and if you’re interested in creative costume design and animatronics, watch Pan’s Labyrinth. It’s a great treat for the eyes, and it has very deep messages and themes. It also spans across several genres. It’s a fantasy adventure, it’s a war film, it’s a drama and it’s a horror (of course, it’s very mild horror). It’s critically acclaimed, and it’s hailed as a great example of innovative filmmaking. So, are you ready to watch it?

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