There’s no question that Guillermo del Toro‘s Pan’s Labyrinth (Picturehouse, 12.29) is his best work to date — a finely woven, emotionally haunting fairy tale of the first order. It’s one of del Toro’s semi-realistic films in the tradtion of Chronos and The Devil’s Backbone, but a very dark one also. I meant to write a longish piece after seeing it in Cannes last May but I didn’t. Now I’m figuring the right time will be a week or two before it opens in late December.
The reason why I delayed on writing a Pan’s review last May finally hit me yester- day during an interview with Children of Men director Alfonso Cuaron. It’s because the ending of del Toro’s film embraces a notion that death is a doorway to a kind of deliverance — to a wondrous realm in which the deceased is reunited with loved ones and finds ultimate peace. I used to be certain of the cosmic continuity of life (i.e., the constancy of the spirit, death being merely a transition point, etc.) but now I’m not so sure. And that’s why I had trouble with the finale. And why, I suspect, audiences will have trouble with it also.
It doesn’t undermine the exquisite balance and beauty of the whole — Pan’s Laby- rinth is thought to be one of the year’s best for some very good reasons — but it leaves you with a troubling “hmmm” as you’re leaving the theatre. In all honesty, if I were del Toro I would have ended it another way. I recognize that the ending is a subjective one (it’s happening in the head of Ivana Baquero‘s adolescent lead character), but it still bothers me.
Here, in any event, is a tour of del Toro’s idea-and-sketch book that appeared in Friday’s (11.17) Guardian.
Guillermo and I did a late-night interview toward the end of the Cannes Film Festi- val (on 5.25.06) at the Martinez Hotel, at which time he let me shoot his note-and- sketch journal, from which he wrote the screenplay and used to draw the first images from the film. Here are the shots again — image #1, image #2 and image #3.