PicturePan's Labyrinth comes to Blu ray with a 1080P transfer, and for a film that pays so much attention to cinematography and lighting - this needs a top notch transfer to fully do justice to the source material.
And a top notch transfer is exactly what this film gets. I have not seen it on DVD or the cinema but from opening scene to last, this transfer delivers the goods in a big way.
The first thing to notice is the level of detail. As this is an “actor's” film, there are plenty of close-ups and the level of facial detail is simply amazing. Just look at the Capitan's face as his wife and Ofelia first arrive in the car. This level of detail is carried through elsewhere in the transfer too. When the woods are used as a location in the first third of the film, there are always particles floating in the air, reflecting the light - lending an other-worldly air to proceedings. This is beautifully realised in the transfer, with a depth of image that only HD can provide.
Later on, as the colours become more and more muted, and the lighting more and more sombre, so the film becomes more challenging to transfer. But the disc copes beautifully with this as well. The scenes in the Labyrinth at night at the end of the film are as clear as a bell, even with the darkness.
It does of course help that the source is immaculate. There are no blemishes or marks on this print, as there shouldn't be for a recent film. This is certainly a very impressive transfer indeed.
SoundThe film is presented with a 5.1 Dolby Digital mix and a stereo mix. The film is in Spanish and you can turn the English subtitles on and off.
I used the 5.1 mix, and as with the picture I was blown away by what is presented here. The key to this mix is subtlety. It is not one of those discs that wants to blast your ear drums from every angle, but when it needs to the surround and LFE effects are beautifully realised.
A perfect example of this is early in the film, when Ofelia is in bed and the fairy first visits here. The fairy flits around the room sometimes onscreen sometimes off. But you can always place it accurately due to the brilliant use of the soundfield. It will fly off behind you and you can hear it hovering in the rear right, before flitting around the room from speaker to speaker. It is a beautifully realised effect.
The front stereo separation is excellent, and speech is very clear at all times even in the midst of gunfire or explosions. The score is also beautifully mixed and presented.
Finally, again the LFE is sparingly used but when it is used it is very effective. When the rebels blow up vehicles your whole room will shake, and the bass goes very low indeed.
ExtrasI have been unable to review the extras on this disc unfortunately, as they refused to play on my US PS3. The film was fine, but none of the extras would play. This was on an advanced checkdisc supplied to us, but one of my colleagues has the retail copy and he has experienced exactly the same problem.
We are endeavouring to find out the root cause of this problem and will update this review when we have some more news.
VerdictPan's Labyrinth is a stunning, complex, deeply layered film that will reward multiple viewings. It is a beautifully acted, and shot film that has a deep political message which is essayed both explicitly and allegorically through the use of fantasy.
The film comes to Blu ray with an absolutely stellar transfer and a superbly realised sound mix. Unfortunately, we could not get any of the extras to play on our copy - but for the film, video, and sound alone this disc is one of the UK releases of the year. The overall mark I have given reflects the film, video and sound only and on that basis this is a thoroughly recommended purchase. However, it may well be advisable to wait until we obtain clarification on the extras issue.
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