[Tangent: The same was true for Don't Be Afraid of the Dark when it first came out in cinemas back in 2010, and that turned out to be a big steaming pile of...well, it wasn't very good. The whole thing with the teeth supplied a week's worth of nightmare fuel. Still, it might be worth writing about the sheer fairy tale-esqueness present in a lot of del Toro's works. For instance, remember my "Ofelia & Little Red Riding Hood" post? Couldn't help but notice Sally fulfills the same role, as does Carlos from TDB. Another blog for another time, perhaps.]
During my viewing of The Devil's Backbone (2001), I noticed how many similarities it shares with Pan's Labyrinth (2006), so onto the comparison! Spoilers ahoy. Also, see my original post on PL here.
|Both rated R for violence, language, and (in TDB) some sexuality.|
Pan's Labyrinth: Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) travels to the Spanish countryside with her pregnant mother (Ariadna Gil) where they will stay with her new stepfather, the cruel Captain Vidal (Sergi López). Once there, she encounters a fantastical world and her true identity as Princess Moanna. She must undergo trials both real and figmental in order to make her way back to the Underworld Kingdom.
Notable similarities: Both plots have to do with children thrown into worlds with which they are unfamiliar and unhappy. Carlos and Ofelia's fathers are dead, each child exists in a world with supernatural tendencies, and both are made to do 'adult' things on their own. Each film carries a not-so-subtle dose of political and religious conflict, as well.
Pan's Labyrinth: This one takes place just after the war. Ofelia is taken to an old mill house situated in a lush forest that is also home to an ancient labyrinth and, via a chalk-drawn door, the Pale Man's lair. One word: disturbing. Most every scene is tinted with green which helps get across a feeling of almost sacred nature. You should have left that part of the world untouched, Vidal.
Notable similarities: Carlos and Ofelia are driven to their respective new homes; you know, in a car. With the former there is a sense of entering into utter isolation while the latter gives audiences the impression that there are plenty of creatures hiding just out of sight.
|Jacinto & Vidal looking a bit the worse for wear.|
Pan's Labyrinth: The guerrillas who fight against the Captain and his men are themselves like orphans, in a way. As for main characters, who can forget Mercedes (Maribel Verdú)? Once Ofelia's mother dies, this strong woman steps in and shows her true colours as a rebel loyalist. Then there are the preternatural beings of the film, including the faun and the Pale Man (both portrayed by Doug Jones). Ofelia's baby brother also plays a pivotal role.
Notable similarities: There is not one character lacking complexity. Oddly, the matriarchal figures in both stories are named Carmen, each film contains a kindhearted doctor, and the villainous arseholes are off the scale when it comes to acts of evil.
|Jesus H Christ.|
Notable similarities: Containing not so much iconic imagery as meaningful actions, both films feature a 'descent' by the protagonist into the unknown. Audiences' hearts race with the characters as there are two distinct 'My sole salvation lies just...out of...reach!' scenes, seemingly miles of dark, horrifying hallways, and main baddies who are brought down by their own egos and greed.
The Devil's Backbone: Happy/sad, highlighting the happy. The villain gets his and, while Santi's death toll predictions were correct, the remaining survivors leave the orphanage. Waving goodbye is the ghost of an old ally... "Europe is sick with fear, and fear sickens the soul." —Dr. Casares
Pan's Labyrinth: Happy/sad, highlighting the sad. Vidal meets his end, but so does Ofelia. While she makes it to her Underground Kingdom and is surrounded by those she loves, the audience is left wondering if it was all just in her head.
The Devil's Backbone:
"Stay by my side as my light grows dim / as my blood slows down and my nerves shatter with stabbing pain / as my heart grows weak / and the wheels of my being turn slowly / Stay by my side / as my fragile body is racked by pain / which verges on truth / and manic time / continues scattering dust / and furious life bursts out in flames / Stay by my side / as I fade / so you can point to the end of my struggle / and the twilight of eternal days / at the low, dark edge of life..."Pan's Labyrinth: When the Doctor (Álex Angulo) euthanizes the stutterer El Tarta (Ivan Massagué).
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