Pan's Labyrinth: 2-Disc Platinum Series

Pan's Labyrinth: 2-Disc Platinum Series (2006)
New Line Home Entertainment
Cast: Ivana Baquero, Sergi López, Maribel Verdú
Extras: Introduction, Commentary Track, Featurettes, Interview, Director's Notebook, Galleries, and much more

Guillermo Del Toro's movie "Pan's Labyrinth" was probably one of the biggest cinematic surprises of 2006, mesmerizing audiences and critics alike with its imaginative story, wonderful visual vocabulary and fascinating direction. It won three Academy Awards and now coming to DVD from New Line Home Entertainment I was very eager to explore this film further.

"El laberinto del fauno" is taking place in fascist Spain in 1944, a time when the country was suffering under the Franco dictatorship. Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) a young girl is thrown into the midst of the civil unrest when she and her pregnant mother move to live with her stepfather, a hardened army general determined to put an end to the rebels fighting the Franco regime.

Horrified by the events unfolding around her and in disgust over her stepfather she finds solace in fantasy stories, and one day one of her stories comes to life when she is visited by a fairy. The fairy leads her into a nearby labyrinth to meet a Faun, a mythical woodland spirit, who has a mission for the little girl.

Giving away too much of the story would be spoiling the fun of seeing and experiencing "Pan's Labyrinth." As Guillermo Del Toro says in his introduction on the DVD, this is a film to get lost in. It is multi-layered and open for interpretation, dazzlingly beautiful and grotesquely ominous, and even more so, it as surprisingly violent. So, just to be clear, despite its fairy tale content, this is definitely not a film for children, which is also evidenced by the movie's R-rating.

Shot and presented entirely in Spanish, the film has a magnetic quality and unique tone that defines every frame. This sense of uniqueness is heightened even more by the cast, consisting entirely of Spanish actors, unfamiliar to American audiences. The quality of acting however is remarkable, giving the movie a sense of authenticity and realism that nicely counterpoints the visual style and fairy tale plot. Especially Sergi López stands out as the sadistic stepfather, Captain Vidal, as does Maribel Verdú playing Mercedes, and of course Ivana Baquero in her part of Ofelia.

As mentioned before, "Pan's Labyrinth" is a film that is open for interpretation and it is a film you will want to talk about after seeing it. It will make you go back in your mind and piece together some story elements that may not have made entire sense upon a first viewing but eventually fit into the greater arch of the film. The film's brooding tone during the fairy tale plot line never allows you to really feel confident as to who's good, who's evil or what they real goals are, until in the end of the film all the pieces fall into place.

The transfer on this DVD is absolutely remarkable in its ability to reproduce the dark look of the film. Much of the movie is tinged in various levels of black as shadows dominate the picture creating a wonderfully enigmatic atmosphere. Color reproduction is also very faithful, rendering the subdued tinges and colors wonderfully to maintain the film's original look. For the most part "Pan's Labyrinth" is not dominated by rich colors making it a very hard transfer to handle on home video. Fortunately, New Line is one of the studios paying very close attention to every detail of their DVD releases and as such this transfer always maintains every little bit of detail and texture. Oh ,what I would give for a high definition transfer of this film.

New Line didn't skimp in the audio department either, offering up a solid 6.1 channel DTS ES soundtrack as well as a Dolby Digital EX version. Javier Navarrete's melancholic score is beautifully coming to life on these tracks with subtlety and clarity that pays full tribute to the wonderful arrangements. Making good use of the surround channels the audio tracks are active and filled with activity. Sometimes aggressively utilizing the split surrounds for maximum effect, at others subtly relying on them to create a bustling ambiance the audio is incredibly well mixed and puts your equipment to good use.
Dialogues are well integrated and are never drowned out by the sound effects or music.

The first disc of the 2-disc set release features an introduction by Guillermo Del Toro in which he welcomes viewers to the film. He also provides a commentary track on this disc offering valuable insight into the making of the film. Since he directed and also wrote the film his commentary not only covers the actual movie production but the entire process of creating the story, bringing it to life in his own mind, finding the right people to make the movie with and ultimately making the actual film. There is never a boring moment in this commentary and every minute contains some informative insight into the process, so make sure to check it out.

The second disc is filled with a number of featurettes, each one covering a different subject in regards to the making of the film. One of them takes a look at the fairy tale mythology that is used in the film, which is based more in European origins than American fairy tales. Another featurette examines the prosthetic and make-up effects in the film as well as general special effects. The third featurette examines Del Toro's work from an artistic standpoint, discussing his choice of color palettes and image detail found throughout his work. Then there's "The Lullaby" in which Del Toro discusses the music of the film and his decision to chose Javier Navarrete to score the film and how the score's central motif was developed.

Also included is the "Charlie Rose Show" interview featuring Gillermo Del Toro, Alfonso Cuarón (Children Of Men) and Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel), three of Mexico's most influential and successful modern filmmakers. As always it delivers a good look into the intentions of the people behind some of the most remarkable and though-provoking movies of recent memory. It is an interesting roundtable that examines the similarities and differences between these men's works and how their shared background enables them to create movies that have distinctive looks and feels while still appealing strongly to American audiences. It is a very loose and candid conversation making for a good feature.

There are also animated, comic-book like treatments of the film's main fairy tale characters on the disc.

The "Director's Notebook" is an interactive feature that allows you to explore many of Del Toro's notes and concepts of the film production and also offers up interviews and many other informative features here relating to the film's making. You will also find multi-angle storyboard comparisons for four scenes in this section, as well as a visual effects plate comparison. Last but not least, image galleries round out this section of the disc, offering up a plethora of images ranging from production designs, creature designs, and behind the scenes images.

I loved "Pan's Labyrinth" and think it is clearly Guillermo Del Toro's best film to date. It is imaginative and fascinating, exceedingly well told and simply a must-see film for any film lover. New Line's Platinum Series Edition adds a number of great supplements to a pristine feature film presentation, thus making this release one of the most important DVDs of 2007 so far. Too bad only that New Line is not offering up any high definition versions of the movie because with its intricate visuals and detailed cinematography, this film would be a breathtaking high definition experience, no doubt. Be that as it may – put "Pan's Labyrinth" on your shopping list now!