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“Pans Labyrinth” by Guillermo del Toro Essay

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Updated: Aug 31st, 2021


In order to properly describe the technical setting that includes the color palette and set design for the movie Pan’s Labyrinth, it is necessary to understand the most about the film why such set design and color palette are used starting out with the Goth-themed movie intertwining a historical background of war against the fantasy of a girl. In Pan’s Labyrinth, del Toro explores his extravagant childhood imagination and intertwined it with: the dangers of ideology and the Spanish Civil War. With that in place, a compelling tale about a young girl into the journey of painful reality and challenging fantasy.

The film that traces the fate of an innocent girl Ofelia is landscaped with man-made evil in the character of her stepfather Captain Vidal, an officer for Spanish leader Franco. In this film, del Toro collaborates with cinematographer Guillermo Navarro, an Academy Award-winning Mexican cinematographer who has worked in Hollywood since 1993 and is a frequent collaborator of fellow Mexicans del Toro.

The narrative is about a fairy from the underworld who went to the upper world and has forgotten about nature and dies on earth. The underworld believed that this princess should someday return. Back on earth, a war was going on between government forces and rebels in 1944 Spain, and a certain Captain Vidal leading the army is about to reunite with a woman he had impregnated. That woman had a child from another man, who is Ofelia. Ofelia was not exactly welcome to join her stepfather, whose only interest was the son carried by Ofelia’s sick mother. A garden infested with other-world creatures became Ofelia’s sanctuary to buffer her against the cold reality.

This paper shall try to properly organize a comparison/contrast essay about the narrative/film using proper stylistic, grammatical, and evidential procedures to demonstrate an understanding of introductory paragraphs, thesis statements, body paragraphs, and conclusions. It will use Real World against Fantasy World comparing or contrasting the Color Palette and Set Design of both the real world and the fantasy world in the film Pan’s Labyrinth.


In consideration of the set design, it is necessary to define the time setting of Pan’s Labyrinth in the Spanish civil war in 1944. It is to be expected that its world was younger, though in a bleak period of deaths and torture that comes with wars. In reality, it was a Spanish period that, although bloody, still featured days of Mediterranean sun as its backdrop: peasant houses and royalty castles in their glory.

In fantasy, which is the film, the lightings that define the color palette were quite shady, with the projection that the film, although taken prior to the year 2006, which is very recent, has the effect that it was old. The color palette is in dark shades of sepia brown, black, brown, grey, or dark green as though eternally clouded with moisture or fog. The colors of objects, background, and the physical environment, in general, areas they are in foggy mist, although there are moments that sepia is applied to emphasize the period.

Likewise, in the scenes where Ofelia enters or interacts with the underworld, there is color palette use of pure blue lighting to indicate mystique, or shady orange, partly darkened or partly lightened portions to show the eerie characters and nature of the underworld.

While the political scenario depicted in the set design was bleak where humans torture humans regardless of innocence and good purpose set aside, Pan’s Labyrinth underscored these through the use of color palette in single shade lighting such as the light sepia showing Captain Vidal.

While it could be expected to see objects as they are in reality, incongruent or even ugly to a point, there are also objects as they are in Pan’s Labyrinth, such as creepy, dirty rocks, or caves, and creepy trees, although much emphasized, always with the use of a lighting and camera technique that blurs the background and emphasize darkness or mystique and incongruity.

The set design utilized the era’s style of dressing, hair combing, military uniforms that seem to represent a Hitler-like militia. Likewise, there was also the use of semi-secluded castles that was prevalent during that period used as housing and military garrison for army troops. These sceneries were intertwined with the unearthly characters popularized by fantasy films and creators like Jim Henson, that are begun in Greece’s mythologies, use of the playful Pan, or Faun. Against the backdrop of an ancient forest-like garden are insects that mutate into diminutive fairies as well as creatures of monstrosity. A tree opens up a doorway to fantasia. In reality, there are no insects that mutate into other forms, only inhuman characters that resemble Captain Vidal’s monstrosity, and that Spanish 2006 fashion against that of the set design is current, of hip-hop extravagance or environmental deconstruction, with the complementary set of a cosmopolitan, yet polluted and chaotic, slowly depopulated global community.


In consideration of the recent time, the film was shot which is about the year 2006 or earlier as against an era of civil war 1944, it is to be concluded that the necessity to use color palette sepia shading to indicate archiving of old scenery was used in Pan’s Labyrinth.

Likewise, in showing fantasy against reality, the film used a color palette of single-shade lighting like an entirely blue in many of the scenes, as well as partially lit and partially darkened areas to add an aura of mystery. Also, the use of a color palette of orange-gold light shade has been prevalent to emphasize mystique and a fascinating fantasyland if not the dangers of an underworld encounter. In reality, all colors are visible, and at night time, it is the darkness that prevails where illumination is viewed only when light is present. In the film, partial lighting is used to illuminate and emphasize a character, define the mystique of the underworld, as well as the dark episodes of the war and the human character.

Overall, it was a very effective use of set design, color, and lighting that brought out the best in the narrative or story of a girl who, despite the harsh reality and painful experiences of loss despite loving and giving, found a way to give more by keeping her brother’s life despite her owner’s loss. The effects intertwining a magical and realistic representation of the ugly side of war and the cruelty of human indifference presented the beautiful and mysterious side of humanity and its power to create as well as salvage the humanity: of Ofelia y succumbing to fantasia, but still, live her human reality through sacrifice.

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1. IvyPanda. ""Pans Labyrinth" by Guillermo del Toro." August 31, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/pans-labyrinth-by-guillermo-del-toro/.


IvyPanda. ""Pans Labyrinth" by Guillermo del Toro." August 31, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/pans-labyrinth-by-guillermo-del-toro/.


IvyPanda. 2021. ""Pans Labyrinth" by Guillermo del Toro." August 31, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/pans-labyrinth-by-guillermo-del-toro/.


IvyPanda. (2021) '"Pans Labyrinth" by Guillermo del Toro'. 31 August.

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