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.|
rich, layered film is
set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. The story
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.
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
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
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
Navarrete's first Oscar Nomination is a just, deserved recognition for a work
that is quite superb in every respect.
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