GUILLERMO DEL TORO’S PAN’S LABYRINTH: INSIDE THE CREATION OF A MODERN FAIRYTALE
by Mark Cotta Vaz and Nick Nunziata
Published by Titan Books
Available from Book Depository
With Tim Burton’s recent efforts lacking the gothicness that we adore, when we think of creepy fairytale films nowadays, one sticks out in our mind: Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth. Set during the post-war era of Franco’s Spain, the film tells the tale of a young girl named Ofelia who’s sent, along with her pregnant mother, to join her step-father at a remote mill outpost. In a place she dislikes and with a step-father who treats his soldiers with more respect than her, Ofelia spends much of her time wandering around the mill and discovers an abandoned labyrinth where she encounters otherworldly, magical creatures who send her on her own journey to complete challenges in order for her to return to her true home. The film is split between “real-life” and Ofelia’s fairytale though it is the latter that really captures the imagination with some marvellous set pieces and creature designs on show. If, like me, you were left wanting more of the fantastical otherworld, then wait no more for it has come in the shape of a behind-the-scenes book, GUILLERMO DEL TORO’S PAN’S LABYRINTH: INSIDE THE CREATION OF A MODERN FAIRYTALE.
Measuring 9.5″ by 11″, the full colour hardback book with embossed cover is a delight to behold. Even before you open the book to view its 160 mesmerising pages, its an enchanting book to hold in your hand. Opening the hard cover, sketches decorate the inside page before we encounter the list of contents and foreword by director Guillermo del Toro himself. Thus begins the peek inside the world of del Toro, from his beginnings as a film director, working alongside his Tequila Gang, learning vital make-up effects with master Dick Smith and sharing visions with fellow Mexican directors Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro González Iñárritu as well as James Cameron. The book pulls you into del Toro’s circle as it discusses his idea for a trilogy, beginning with the terrific The Devil’s Backbone. His earlier films, including Cronos, Hellboy and Mimic, were instrumental leading up to Pan’s Labyrinth, in so many different ways, but mostly confirmed del Toro’s unrelenting passion to not allow anyone to subdue or change his vision.
When I first picked up the book, I expected a pretty straight-forward affair of story to screen, especially with del Toro having gained much experience by this point, becoming better known as a filmmaker and helming the successful American superhero Hellboy film. Discovering the difficulties of shooting low budget Pan’s Labyrinth was a revelation I did not expect which only makes you appreciate the film even more and it’s with great delight that I read about everything from casting the characters to the set design and to the marvellous special effects which transformed del Toro’s creature actor of choice, Doug Jones, into both Pan the faun and the creepy, child-eater The Pale Man. The book doesn’t skimp on telling the story of the creation of the movie. Speaking to del Toro, the producers and other cast, crew and friends gives readers such a fantastic insight into what it was like to make the dark, civil war fairytale.
As with some other Titan Books releases, such as the Ghostbusters and Back To The Future books, GUILLERMO DEL TORO’S PAN’S LABYRINTH: INSIDE THE CREATION OF A MODERN FAIRYTALE contains little pull-outs – pieces of paper or card featuring sketches and designs from the movie that are actually loose and not part of the binding and can essentially be “pulled-out” should you desire to remove them from the book for closer inspection. I absolutely love this little feature as it feels as though it brings you closer to the movie you’re reading about. Outside of this, with the normal pages, expect to see full colour stills from the movie, behind-the-scenes photos, storyboards, ‘napkin’ sketches and designs.
This is a book that ticks so many boxes that will satisfy many film fans out there. It’s an eye-opening account that reveals the true hardships of getting a movie to screen, one that isn’t as glamourous as the beautiful end product might be. If only all my favourite movies could be given the treatment Pan’s Labyrinth has with this wonderful book. A must for any film fan