Pan’s Labyrinth

English Title: Pan’s Labyrinth

Original Title: El Laberinto del Fauno

Country of Origin: Spain, Mexico

Studio: Tequila Gang, Estudios Picasso, Telecinco

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Producer(s): Belén Atienza, Álvaro Augustín, Guillermo del Toro, Edmundo Gil , Bertha Navarro, Alfonso Cuarón, Elena Manrique, Frida Torresblanco

Screenplay: Guillermo del Toro

Cinematographer: Guillermo Navarro

Editor: Bernat Vilaplana

Runtime: 112 minutes

Genre: Fantasy and Horror

Language: Spanish

Starring/Cast: Ivana Banquero, Doug Jones, Sergi López, Maribel Verdú

Year: 2006

Volume: Spanish / Portuguese

In post-Civil-War Spain, under the dictatorship of General Franco, young Ofelia’s mother, Carmen, marries Francoist-army captain Vidal, whose child she is carrying. Vidal’s job is to hunt down the revolutionary guerrilla army that is working against Franco’s operations. Vidal’s own housemaid Mercedes is a key agent for the guerrillas.
One day, Ofelia stumbles into a labyrinth where she meets the Faun, who tells her that she is an incarnation of Princess Moanna. In order to return to her father’s kingdom, she must fulfill three tasks. For the first task Ofelia must retrieve a key from a toad that is living inside a fig tree. For the second task, Ofelia must use the key to obtain a weapon that is under the protection of the Pale Man. However, she disobeys the orders of the Faun and eats two grapes. The Faun is furious with her for disobeying him and refuses to tell her the final task that will take her back to her kingdom.
That night Ofelia’s mother dies in childbirth and the Captain discovers that Mercedes is a rebel. While Mercedes manages to escape, Ofelia remains locked in the room. The Faun returns to Ofelia, giving her a final chance to prove her obedience. The third task is to take the newborn baby into the labyrinth. The Faun tells her that the door to the eternal world will open when she sheds the blood of an innocent child – her brother. Ofelia refuses and the Faun disappears. Vidal enters the labyrinth, takes the child from her and shoots her. As he reaches outside, he is surrounded by the rebels who take his son from him and shoot him.
At the end Ofelia enters the eternal world of which she is the princess, since she did shed the blood of an innocent – herself. She is seated beside the King and the Queen and is hailed by the Faun and the fairies.


In Pan’s Labyrinth, del Toro’s use of fantasy serves a purpose that is contrary to the tropes of escapist cinema and literature. There are three orders that are visible in this film: Vidal’s fascist group, the revolutionaries and Ofelia’s imaginary world. Like the guerrillas, the imaginary world becomes another way of deterring the order created by Vidal. Del Toro is thus playing on the concept of the underworld – using it to refer to the imaginary world as well as the political underworld.
A key similarity between the world of the rebels and that of Ofelia lies in the question of choice. The very creation of the alternative order is a manifestation of this. In her refusal to obey the faun’s final command and sacrifice her brother, Ofelia rejects the Christian order that was an undercurrent of the Spanish Civil War. The difference between the two worlds is made clear because in the imaginary world she becomes Princess Moanna in spite of her defiance, perhaps because of it, whereas, in the real world, it kills her.
Del Toro has created a logic that is not governed by the laws of the real world, but is logic nevertheless. The logic of exactitude in Vidal’s world where every activity is preceded by a visual reference to the pocket watch is in contrast to a logic where time is measured by the moon and hourglasses. While a chronology dominates the real world, del Toro introduces multiple dimensions of time in the imaginary world which has a past where Princess Moanna lived with her father the king, a present where the faun is trying to test the princess’s essence, and a future that is introduced when she is invited to share the throne with her father and mother.
Using the metaphor of the labyrinth, del Toro also defies the laws of historiography. The very physical structure of the labyrinth is at variance with the decidedly linear appearance of history in traditional history-writing tropes. Historiography here is a coming together of the political and the personal. It is a more visceral approach to history, one where different layers exist simultaneously.  Finally, it does not halt or attempt to cure history in its narrative and this is most evident in the way the film ends with the image of a dying child.

Author of this review: Kuhu Tanvir