- El Laberinto del Fauno
- Pan's labyrinth (2006)In 2000, Guillermo del Toro shot his first Spanish film, El espinazo del diablo /The Devil's Backbone, about an orphanage haunted by monsters both real and imaginary, in the context of the Spanish Civil War. These themes were revisited six years later in the more ambitious El laberinto del fauno, a complex, technically outstanding production that used the conventions of classic fairy tales and fantasy to comment on Spanish history and the power of imagination as a strategy for survival in the darkest periods.Set in a forest near the French border in 1944, after the end of the conflict, the story focuses on bookish Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), a young girl whose mother (Ariadna Gil) has married a sadistic fascist colonel (Sergi López). At night, she is visited by a strange faun (modeled, according to del Toro, on David Bowie) who commands her into a number of trials that will allow her to escape the grimness of ordinary life and, he assures her, regain her position as a princess in an underground kingdom. This will lead her to face dangerous trials: a giant bullfrog living under a tree's roots, a child-devouring monster (suggesting the cruelty of some representatives of the Catholic Chuch), and the labyrinth itself. But there are hints that the faun might be lying or that, at best, he could simply be a figment of the girl's imagination. At the same time, real struggle dominates life in the forest, as rebel fighters attempt to bring down the Colonel's army.Both scary and emotionally engaging, the film was a huge international success and was awarded seven Goyas and three Academy Awards, mostly in technical categories. Critics focused on special effects and atmosphere, fascinatingly realized through detailed art direction, but it is also important to notice how the film was a return to traditional dramatic motives in Spanish cinema about the past, evil, and history: as in many post-Transition films, an attempt is made to come to terms with a very dark period and to trace the existence of monstrous individuals. Another traditional motif in Spanish film is that of a child who watches reality and tries to make sense of it, as featured in El espíritu de la colmena (The Spirit of the Beehive, Víctor Erice, 1973), Cria Cuervos (Raise Ravens, Carlos Saura, 1976), El sur (South, Víctor Erice, 1983), and La lengua de las mariposas (Butterfly Tongue, José Luis Cuerda, 1997).
Historical dictionary of Spanish cinema. Alberto Mira. 2010.