A Spanish language fantasy film set in post Civil-War Spain (1944) during the Franquist repression, Pan’s Labyrinth was written and directed by acclaimed Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, who, along with fellow Mexican filmmakers Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, is known as the Three Amigos of Mexican/Spanish Cinema. The film is an informal sequel to Del Toro’s 2001 Mexican/ Spanish gothic horror film – The Devil’s Backbone. Pan’s Labyrinth debuted at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival with additional release dates of November 24, 2006 (United Kingdom), December 29, 2006 (U.S. and Canada), and January 19, 2007 (international release). The cast was predominately Spanish with the inception of American science fiction/ fantasy/horror actor, Doug Jones who played The Faun/Pale Man. The film intertwines the violent and grim realities of war with that of the fantasy world of its young protagonist, Ofelia/Princess Moanna (Ivana Baquero).
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Pan’s Labyrinth garnered numerous international accolades, including three Academy Awards – Best Art Direction, Cinematography, and Make-up. Complex make-up, puppetry, coupled with computer-generated imagery/effects, and in particular the cinematography, contributes to the film’s mesmerizing aura. A cinematographer’s job is to create the ambiance and look of the film that correlates with and interprets the director’s idea. The director may have decisive control over the visual image, but it is the cinematographer’s job to actually record that image. Accomplished cinematographers usually give a film a visual style that is uniquely their own. Mexican cinematographer – Guillermo Navarro embodies all of these principles. A frequent collaborator with Del Toro, Navarro exudes his unique photographic style in Pan’s Labyrinth. Navarro’s objective in Pan’s Labyrinth was to have complete freedom and “let the visuals really contribute to the telling of the story.” Sensitivity to space shot versatility and bringing visual images to the surface that the story does not say comprise his creed as a cinematographer.
Munich marked paramount American film director/screenwriter/producer Steven Spielberg’s sixth Academy Award nomination for Best Director. Released December 23, 2005, the film’s star ensemble cast comprised Eric Bana, Daniel Craig, Geoffrey Rush, Ciaran Hinds, Ayelet Zurer, Mathieu Kassovitz, Robert Hans Zischler, Michael Lonsdale, and Mathieu Amalric. Munich was based on Canadian journalist George Jonas’ book, Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team, which was inspired by a story authored by Yuval Aviv, a former Mossad agent. A historical fiction film was written by Tony Kushner and Eric Roth, Munich depicts the Israeli government’s covert retaliation operation against the Black September gunmen (Palestinian militant group) responsible for killing eleven Israeli athletes/coaches during the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, West Germany. Known as the 1972 Munich Massacre, Munich describes how a team of assassins headed by ex-Mossad agent, Avner Kaufman (Eric Bana), hunt down and kill Black September members responsible for the massacre.
Spielberg’s films mostly display a strong correlation between thematic focus and characters.. The majority of Spielberg’s films focus on average persons finding themselves either in extraordinary circumstances or coming in contact with or searching for extraordinary beings. Although from this premise, Munich is no exception, the film proved to be Spielberg’s most highly polarized and controversial film due to his objective portrayal of the humanistic/vulnerable nature of the lead protagonists, Israeli and non-Israeli. Most importantly, Spielberg addresses the paradox of an assassin’s life – the hunters become the hunted. The souls of these characters, although committed to their task, are deeply troubled. There is no peace in death/killing, even if justified or retaliatory. “There is something about killing people at close range,” says Spielberg, “that is excruciating. It’s bound to try a man’s soul… Of the real Avner, I don’t think he will ever find peace (Time Magazine, December 2005).”
Ebert, Robert. “Reviews: Munich. Chicago Sun-Times. 2005. Web.
“Fear and Fantasy.” American Cinematographer. 2007. Web.
Kermode, Mark. “Pain should not be sought – but it should never be avoided.” The Observer. 2005.
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McCarthy, Todd. “Munich Review.” Variety. 2005.
Navarro, Guillermo. “Things I’ve Learned as a Moviemaker.” Cinematography.
Schickel, Richard. “Spielberg Takes on Terror.” TIME. 2005.
Shafer, Craig. “Amazing journey: Fantasy both frightening and beautiful lurks in this award-winning labyrinth.” New York SLO. Web.