pan's labyrinth
Music composed by Javier Navarrete
Label: Milan

Year: 2006

1. Long, Long Time Ago
2. The Labyrinth
3. Rose, Dragon
4. The Fairy and the Labyrinth
5. Three Trials
6. The Moribund Tree and the Toad
7. Guerrilleros
8. A Book of Blood
9. Mercedes Lullaby
10. The Refuge
11. Not Human
12. The River
13. A Tale
14. Deep Forest
15. Vals of the Mandrake
16. The Funeral
17. Mercedes
18. Pan and the Full Moon
19. Ofelia
20. A Princess
21. Pan's Labyrinth Lullaby

Total Time: 72:51

Reviewed by
Jorge Saldanha

Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro is developing a strong career devoted to fantasy and horror films. In his native language he directed such cult favorites like Cronos (1993) and The Devil's Backbone (2001), while in Hollywood he delivered the sci fi/horror Mimic and the comic based Blade II and Hellboy. His most recent spanish language film is the remarkable El Laberinto del Fauno (Pan's Labyrinth, 2006), where Del Toro displays his most personal, unique style of filmmaking.

his rich, layered film is set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. The story is told through the eyes of Ofelia, a dreamy little girl who, together with her mother, is uprooted to a rural military outpost commanded by her new stepfather. The crude reality that surrounds Ofelia leds her to seek a way to escape to a better, magic world. She begins to live a fable of her own when a creature who looks like a real Faun appears to save her. He can make her dreams come true, but he wants something in return.

Pan's Labyrinth marks the director's second collaboration with spanish composer Javier Navarrete after The Devil's Backbone, and here their creative partnership reached a new level of maturity (for the record, for his Hollywood output the director has another usual collaborator, Marco Beltrami). Navarrete's score features
rich orchestrations that perfectly captures the fantastical mood devised for del Toro for the film - with all of the tension, sensitivity and imagination of it - and is performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Mario Klemens, featuring vocal soloist Lua.

As the film that serves, the score is a multy-layered representation of the classic confrontation of Good and Evil, that makes a parallel between the little girl's fantasy dreams and her reality - in one side the psychology of the childhood, the fantasy, a fairy tale world; in another the adult cruelty, the reality, an undesirable destiny. In the liner notes to this soundtrack, del Toro describes how the film itself is a fairy tale, a bedtime story for adults and how it required a lullaby to carry the tale from start to finish. So, Navarrete builds his music around this sweet, yet grieved lullaby introduced in "Long, Long Time Ago" that emphasizes Ofelia's stolen innocence, here represented by a gentle female voice accompanied by bucolic piano that it will give place to the final irruption of the strings. It's a gentle, memorable motif that also translates the kindness derivad from other characters  ("Mercedes Lullaby") and even the new world to be unfolded for the little girl ("The Labyrinth).

Besides this lullaby Navarrete avoids the use of leitmotifs clearly associated to characters. Instead, the music passes to be centered around feelings and the story's events. Horns foretell Capitain Vidal's cruelty acts and the Republican Guerrilla is portraied by epic, militaristic tones ("Guerrilleros") or melodic, hopeful pieces ("The River"). Mercedes' affection for Ofelia and her opposition against the Captain are assimilated in tracks like the gentle "Mercedes" and the already cited "The River". As the album progresses, the music gradually loses its magical side and begins to show a much more frightening aspect, carrying to the listener the increasingly terrifying dangers Ofelia faces.

The ambiguous Faun's figure represents the connection of Ofelia between reality and fantasy, and the doubts about his true intentions towards the little girl are capable to bring us a contained optimism (like the winds and piano introduction of "The Moribund Tree and the Toad") but also the horror caused by the menace of a monster ("Not Human"). The moving elegy of "The Funeral" and the dark and sometimes aggressive tones of "Mercedes" precedes the last tracks that will lead the film to its paradoxical and very well crafted end. "The Princess" is one of the score's most touching moments, a stirring piece on disc or in conjunction with the final sequences of the film. "Pan's Labyrinth Lullaby" is heard over the end credits, where Navarrete bring us back his main motif, this time featuring solo violin, that closes an indispensable score.

In my opinion Pan's Labyrinth is one of last year's best film scores (in fact IS THE BEST 2006 score that I've heard), and Javier Navarrete's first Oscar Nomination is a just, deserved recognition for a work that is quite superb in every respect.