A SHORT INTRODUCTION TO THE MYTHOLOGY
Concerning The Great God Pan
The Ancient Greek god Pan (whose Roman 'equivalent' is the god Faunus) was originally the god of herdsmen and their flocks, before becoming associated with Fertility and Nature in general. Pan represents "The Whole" Nature, the good and the bad, without a moral balance. He is, in essence, a neutral character who can bring forth creation or destruction. Son of Hermes and the Nymph Dryops (or, according to other legends, of Hermes and Penelope, wife of Ulysses), he was born with the legs and horns of a goat. Abandoned by his mother on account of this monstrous appearance, his father Hermes took him to Olympius, thus bestowing Pan's divinity upon him.
However, Pan disliked Olympia, where the Gods mocked his strange appearance, and preferred to live with satyrs, nymphs and other Nature divinities, deep in the forests of Arcadia.
Pan's trademark pipes were named after the Nymph Syrinx, of whom he was greatly enamoured. To escape his attentions, she transformed herself into a rose bush. Mad with rage at having been thus thwarted, Pan cut the rosebush into different lengths from which he fashioned his pipes.
Pan owed his poor reputation to his largely obnoxious character. Hating to be woken from his sleep, he would rise furious and let out a terrible cry, striking fear - or 'panic' - into the hearts of those who heard him. He would also appear without warning to unsuspecting mortals, provoking an often deadly terror.
Pan's sexual appetite was legendary: nymphs, goddesses and even satyrs, all were the objects of his lusts.
This monstrous reputation, in conjunction with his physical characteristics, was without doubt what inspired Mediaeval Christians to demonize Pan, giving Satan his attributes in their continuing battle against paganism and other traditions.
Pan is the only god to have tasted death. His demise can be interpreted as symbolic of the cycle of the seasons, and the passage from summer through autumn into winter.
Spain, 1944. The end of the Civil War.
Recently remarried Carmen moves with her daughter Ofélia into the house of her new husband, coldly authoritarian Vidal, a captain in Franco's army.
Finding her new life hard to bear, the young girl seeks refuge in a mysterious labyrinth she discovers next to the sprawling family house. Pan, the guardian, a magical creature, reveals that she is none other than the long-lost princess of a magical kingdom.
To discover the truth, Ofélia will have to accomplish three dangerous tasks, tasks which nothing has prepared her to face…
A year's preparation, four months shooting and six months of post-production were necessary for Guillermo del Toro to realise Pan's Labyrinth, in his own opinion his most accomplished film, and the one of which he is most proud.
Despite being his sixth film as director, the genesis of Pan's Labyrinth goes back to the very beginning of his career, before he had even directed his debut film, Cronos. "At its roots, the script of Pan's Labyrinth resembles my very first version of The Devil's Backbone, and would have been my first film if I'd managed to find the budget necessary to make it at the time. It was set at the time of the Spanish Revolution and the story told of a pregnant young woman reunited with her husband in a house he had restored. While visiting the home, the mother-to-be discovered a garden in the form of a labyrinth, and in this garden, came across a satyr. She made love with the beast, who proposed sacrificing her child so that the labyrinth might come into bloom. If the woman had agreed, she would have lived for eternity by the satyr's side. Even if resemblances remain, the new version of Pan's Labyrinth is despite everything, very different, my sentimental side having got the upper hand in the end."
"Pan's Labyrinth, like The Devil's Backbone, takes place after the Civil War, in Franco's time, and deals therefore with fascism, with its very essence. Not directly, but in an oblique fashion, somewhat coded, because I love films that make you think. For me, fascism represents the ultimate horror and for this reason is an ideal subject through which to tell a fairy tale for adults. Because fascism is above all a form of the perversion of innocence, and thus of childhood. For me, fascism represents in some ways the death of the soul, as it forces you to make harrowing choices and leaves an indelible mark in the very depths of those who live through it. Thus the real "monster" in the film is Captain Vidal, played by Sergi López. A very real monster compared to those who lurk in the labyrinth. Fascism consumes you, inch by inch, not necessarily physically, but certainly spiritually. This notion was at the heart of The Devil's Backbone, certainly, but I believe I have dealt with it better in Pan's Labyrinth, an even darker, much more complex, metaphorical film".
As we often find in del Toro's work, his main references in Pan's Labyrinth come less from the films that have impressed him most deeply, but more naturally from literature and painting. "I have always been very influenced by the Spanish painter Goya, more specifically by his 'black paintings', which are, for me, his most impressive. The painting of Saturn devouring his son, for example, was one of the principle inspirations for the Pale Man, one of the main characters of the labyrinth. But for the general ambience, this time I drew most heavily on the works of the illustrator Arthur Rackham. I tried to reconnect with the perversity and very sexual content of his work. In fairy tales, all stories are either about the return to the womb (heaven, home) or wandering out into the world and facing your own dragon. We are all children wandering through our own fable.
"We achieved something very intense and very visceral, which was perfect for Pan's Labyrinth.
It demanded a lot of work from us, both in the construction of the sets, which had to be minutely detailed, and in the choice of colours. With Eugenio Caballero, my production designer, we made everything, from beginning to end, from the smallest nook or cranny to an entire bedroom. Thus there is practically no natural scenery in the film. We collaborated very closely from the first day of prep. I even set up my office right in the middle of his studio! All in all, we built 34 different sets, each more sumptuous than the last. Eugenio did a fabulous job. It was also necessary, to capture the world I wanted to show, to pay meticulous attention to the ambience of the film's light. Guillermo Navarro, my director of photography and long-time friend, and I, we understand each other perfectly. From the outset, we had a very precise vision of the film's tonalities. We were very aware that everything rested on the manipulation of darkness in order to create a feeling of menace lurking in the shadows.
"It was also vital to approach the real world and the imagined world differently. The former had to be cold, full of straight lines and diagonal lines, while the latter would be much warmer, golden and full of round shapes".
The conception of the imaginary world in which Ofelia seeks refuge and Pan roams was entrusted first to Carlos Gimenez for the sketches, and then to David Marti and his company Efectos Especiales to give them form and bring them to life. Both had already worked with del Toro on The Devil's Backbone.
"Carlos Gimenez, who replaced William Stout early in the preproduction, took care of designing the labyrinth while Sergio Sandoval, who had already created Kroenen's masks for Hellboy, concentrated on the creatures, the Faun in particular. For this character - very inspired by Arthur Rackham - I wanted to use organic textures - his lower body covered in foliage and branches, as if truly, corporeally, a part of Nature. We used a special effects technique which I believe has never been seen before in a film. To make him appear as realistic as possible, we used practically no digital effects. Everything was done on the set, with the help of animatronics.
"The Pale Man was originally conceived as a skeletal man with hanging skin, but I changed the design once David Marti sculpted the head. It struck me as too human. I recalled the 'face' in the underbelly of manta rays : the lack of features, the slit mouth, the two 'nostrils' in place of the eyes. So I copied the features of the clay sculpture and then drew a new, featureless visage and emailed it to David, asking him to remove the features from his beautiful sculpture. He agreed, with huge reservations. I placed the eyes in twin stigmata in the Pale Man's palms, which he would display like peacock feathers in front of his face. That was the birth of this most surreal monster. But even with all the elaborate special effects, these two creatures would not have had the same impact without the performance of my friend Doug Jones, a professional mime who had previously played Abe Sapien in Hellboy. There are still more creatures in the film, notably a giant toad and fairies like none you've ever seen, much more grimy and deceitful than those in Peter Pan!".
Despite this innovative and magnificent visual artifice, Guillermo del Toro never had any intention of making Pan's Labyrinth simply as a fantasy film, but had decided at the outset to open up the film for a wider audience.
"I've always preferred genres to be mixed. Like combining horror with an historical narrative, for example. For me, Pan's Labyrinth is therefore a drama rooted in a context of war, with fairytale and mythological elements grafted on. Even these creatures of which I am particularly fond, for me, even they are not what's most important. Above all this film rests on a very moving story, profoundly human and dramatic. A story that raises universal questions which, I hope, concern us all."
GUILLERMO DEL TORO
Director / Screenwriter / Producer
Guillermo del Toro was born 9 October 1964 in Guadalajara, in the state of Jalisco, Mexico, where he was largely raised by his grandmother, an ultra-conservative Catholic. From a very young age, he showed a remarkable attraction to cinema, in particular to the fantasy and gothic horror genres. Amongst those which marked him most deeply, William Wyler's Wuthering Heights sits alongside Scorsese's Taxi Driver, Mario Bava's Black Sunday, George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead and the classic Hammer horror films of the 1960s. He began to make his own short Super 8 films aged 8, while attending a Jesuit-run boys' school and nursing dreams of one day becoming a director.
Nonetheless it was towards special effects that the young del Toro turned first, moving to the US and taking the advanced make-up courses run by the legendary Dick Smith, responsible for the special effects in such classics as The Exorcist, Scanners and Tony Scott's The Hunger, starring David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve.
Returning to the country of his birth in 1986, although only 21 years old, del Toro was offered the role of producer on Dona Herlinda and Her Son by his mentor Jaime Humberto Hermosillo, one of the most respected Mexican directors of the past twenty years. At the same time, he set up his own special effects company, Necropia, which allowed him to become involved, both closely and at a distance, in more than 20 feature films including Bandidos, Coitas and Mentiras Piadosas, and in particular the TV series Hora Marcada, in many ways a Mexican Tales From The Crypt. It was also at this time that he began to lecture in cinema whilst forging a career as a journalist, his work appearing in publications including the prestigious Sight & Sound and Village Voice. He even found time to publish a book on the films of Alfred Hitchcock, one of his favourite directors.
In 1992, after years working for Mexican television, del Toro at last succeeded in raising the budget necessary to make his first feature film, Cronos. A modern-day re-imagining of the vampire myth, Cronos was instantly acclaimed by critics world-wide, winning numerous international awards, notably the Critics' Prize at Cannes and the 'Mexican César'. Already, Cronos stood out from the competition and made very clear del Toro's unique style, in terms of both narrative and direction. Cronos also marked the first collaboration between Guillermo del Toro and Ron Perlman, a totem actor for the director, whom he would direct again in Blade 2 and Hellboy.
The critical plaudits received by Cronos paved the way for del Toro, five years later, to make his first Hollywood film, Mimic, for Miramax, in which Mira Sorvino battles to quell an invasion of mutant humanoid cockroaches. For Guillermo del Toro, who found himself absolutely at odds with Miramax, Mimic was a bad experience, but one which nonetheless allowed him to learn from his mistakes. He returned to Mexico and founded his own production company, Tequila Gang, in order to maintain greater control over his films.
At this point, the Almodóvar brothers, recognizing del Toro's extraordinary talent, suggested that he make a low budget horror film in Spain. Frustrated by his American experience, del Toro immediately accepted their proposal and used it to make a far more personal film. This was The Devil's Backbone, a project he had been plotting for fifteen years, before even coming up with the idea of Cronos. Under the guise of a ghost story, he delivered a profoundly human work about children confronting a climate of war. Like Cronos, The Devil's Backbone won the director numerous prizes.
The following year, reconciled with Hollywood, del Toro agreed to direct Blade 2, the sequel to Stephen Norrington's film starring Wesley Snipes, adapted from the Marvel comic. Blade 2 proved an immediate and enormous box-office success, exceeding even New Line's hopes. This success allowed del Toro to follow it with another comic book adaptation, Mike Mignola's Hellboy, which the director had been trying desperately to get off the ground for seven years. The film is widely considered one of the finest comic-book adaptations in the history of cinema. In order to see Hellboy through to completion, del Toro turned down Blade: Trinity and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The latter was finally directed by Alfonso Cuarón, whom Guillermo has affectionately nicknamed 'compadre' and with whom he has joined as producing partner, prompted by their past association on The Devil's Backbone and Sebastian Cordero's Crónicas.
Presented in Official Competition in Cannes, Pan's Labyrinth marks their third collaboration, as well as del Toro's return to Spain, five years after The Devil's Backbone. A wholly original work, which has been ripening for more than twenty years, Pan's Labyrinth is at once del Toro's most personal film, his most accomplished, most emotionally charged and most accessible film to date. A complex masterpiece, and unique in the panorama of contemporary cinema.
Del Toro is currently working on the sequel to Hellboy with its creator Mike Mignola, again for Columbia and with Ron Perlman in the title role, as well as At the Mountains of Madness, an adaptation of the novel by H.P. Lovecraft, a project very close to his heart and which he has been developing for several years.
Special effects supervisor for DDT Efectos Especiales
Of Spanish origin, David Marti has worked in the domain of special effects for the past 15 years. Early ambitions to become a comic book artist were soon abandoned: while watching the first Star Wars trilogy, and above all John Huston's The List of Adrian Messenger, in which numerous disguised characters remove their make-up at the film's finale, something clicked. While working in advertising, he enrolled in the Dick Smith make-up correspondence course, perfect training for his future career.
At the beginning of the nineties, Marti established his own company, DDT Efectos Especiales, working mainly on adverts. In 1994 he made his first move into the world of cinema when he was approached by the brilliant director Nacho Cerda to design the corpse central to his short film Aftermath, a festival hit world-wide. During the same period, he oversaw the special effects for Oscar Aibar's Atolladero. Also in 1994, he met Jaume Balagueró, a prodigy of contemporary Spanish cinema, and worked with him on two short films. Several years later they were reunited on the three feature films The Nameless, Darkness and Fragile, all produced by Filmax International. For the same producers, he worked on Brian Yuzna's Faust, Arachnid by Jack Sholder, Dagon by Stuart Gordon, The Werewolf Hunt by Paco Plaza and Heart of the Warrior by Daniel Monzon. Alongside his contributions to these pinnacles of Spanish fantastic cinema, he has collaborated with the greats of contemporary Spanish cinema: Pedro Almódóvar, Julio Medem (Sex and Lucia) and Alex de la Iglesia (La Comunidad). Recently, David Marti worked on Doom by Andrzej Bartkowiak, a Universal adaptation of the hit video game, for which he created a number of monsters and zombies.
The extraordinary, elaborate and monstrously complex creatures he created for Pan's Labyrinth represent Marti's greatest career challenge - and finest work - to date, and mark his third collaboration with del Toro after The Devil's Backbone and Hellboy.
Born in Mexico, Eugenio Caballero studied art history and cinema history at the University of Florence between 1989 and 1991. The following year he returned to the country of his birth to study set design at the National Institute of Fine Arts (FINA), then production design at the Universidad Iberoamericana in 1993. He first worked on numerous adverts and video clips, notably those produced by Café Tacuba, on which he collaborated with many of Mexico's finest directors and for which he won two MTV Awards, then as design assistant on more than a dozen films, including Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliette. His credits as production designer include Seres Humanos by Jorge Aguilera, Asesino en Serio by Antonio Urrutia, Zurdo by Carlos Salces, Santitos by Alejandro Springall and Crónicas by Sebastian Cordero, produced by Alfonso Cuarón, Guillermo del Toro, Bertha Navarro and Frida Torresblanco. Caballero is currently working on Resident Evil: Extinction, the third installment of the hugely successful franchise, to be directed by Russell Mulcahy.
Director of photography
Also a Mexican living in Los Angeles, Guillermo Navarro is a long-standing collaborator of del Toro's, having shot all his films since Cronos, with the exception of Mimic and Blade 2. Always moving forward, Navarro draws on an endlessly rich palette, in perfect accord with the worlds created by del Toro in Cronos, The Devil's Backbone, Hellboy and - most perfectly - Pan's Labyrinth, on which Navarro has truly excelled himself.
In addition to his collaborations with del Toro, Navarro, who began his career on documentaries in South America, has also worked as cinematographer on several films by another compatriot, Robert Rodriguez (Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn and Spy Kids), as well as Jackie Brown by Quentin Tarantino, The Long Kiss Goodnight by Renny Harlin, Stuart Little by Rob Minkoff, Spawn by Mark Dippé, adapted from the comic book by Todd McFarlane, and most recently Zathura by Jon Favreau, in addition to the Emmy-nominated National Geographic Special, The Lost Kingdom of Maya. Navarro is currently working on Night at the Museum by director Shawn Levy (The Pink Panther).
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