Guillermo del Toro's fantastical tale, Pan's Labyrinth, is the filmmaker's second movie with the Spanish Civil War (The Devil's Backbone was his first) as its backdrop. It's also a very personal film for del Toro who explores the themes of childhood, the Spanish Civil War, and the dangers of ideology with his latest mix of horror and fantasy.
Defining Labyrinth: The labyrinth is a very, very powerful sign, explained del Toro. Its a primordial, almost iconic symbol. It can mean so many things, culturally, depending on where you do it. But the main thing for me is that, unlike a maze, a labyrinth is actually a constant transit of finding, not getting lost. Its about finding, not losing, your way. That was very important for me. It is a place where you do sharp turns and you can have the illusion of being lost, but you are always doing a constant transit to an inevitable center. Thats the difference. A maze is full of dead ends, and a labyrinth may have the illusion of having a dead end, but it always continues.
I can ascribe two concrete meanings of the labyrinth in the movie. One is the transit of the girl towards her own center, and towards her own, inside reality, which is real. I think that Western cultures make a difference about inner and outer reality, with one having more weight than the other. I dont. I come from an absolutely crazy upbringing. I had a f**ked up childhood. And I have found that [the inner] reality is as important as the one that Im looking at right now.
The other transit I can say is the transit that Spain goes through, from a princess that forgot who she was and where see came from, to a generation that will never know the name of the fascist. And, the other one is the Captain being dropped in his own historical labyrinth. Those are things I put in. But then, as I said, the labyrinth is something else. Each culture will ascribe a different weight to it.
Guillermo del Toro on Fairy Tales and Inspiration: In the time of spiritual formation, for me, both fairy tales and the Bible had the exact same weight. I was as enthralled by a parable in the Bible about the grain of mustard, as I could be about three brothers on their quest to marry a princess. I found equal spiritual illumination in both. Even when I was a kid, funny enough, I used to be able to find those fairy tales that felt preachy and pro-establishment, and I hated them. I hated the ones that were about, Dont go out at night. There are fairy tales that are created to instill fear in children, and there are fairy tales that are created to instill hope and magic in children. I like those. I like the anarchic ones. I like the crazy ones. And, I think that all of them have a huge quotient of darkness because the one thing that alchemy understands, and fairy tale lore understands, is that you need the vile matter for magic to flourish. You need lead to turn it into gold. You need the two things for the process. So when people sanitize fairy tales and homogenize them, they become completely uninteresting for me.
Which fairy tale had the biggest influence on del Toro? I have collected them since I was a kid, so its hard for me to tell you, answered del Toro. Theres a whole streak of them. The movie and the notebook both say that we are doing homages to Lewis Carroll, to The Wizard of Oz, to Hans Christian Andersen with the little magical girl, to Oscar Wilde, and very specifically to David Copperfield and Charles Dickens. These are things that I voluntarily do. But, the one book that I would say was a huge influence on making the movie is a book called The Sands of Fairy Tales which is a recent catalog of all the primordial streaks of storytelling in fairy tale lore.
The Original Plot of Pans Labyrinth: Originally the idea was that it was a married couple and the wife was pregnant. She fell in love with the faun in the labyrinth, and the husband was so straight. The faun said to her, If you give me your child and you trust me with killing your child, you will find him and I, both, on the other side, and the labyrinth will flourish again, and she made that leap of faith. It was a shocking tale and it started changing. It was totally different than this one. But movies are like that, and stories are like that. They change on you.
I dont know exactly when it happened but I know that, in post-production on Hellboy over a chicken dinner at Alfonso [Cuarons] house -- he was post-producing Harry Potter - I said, Well, after dinner, Ill tell you the movie I want to make, and I told him this movie, start to finish, exactly as it was made. At that point, I had made the decision. I believe it happened over the course of a couple of days.