Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Soundtrack Suggestion: Pan's Labyrinth (El Laberinto del Fauno) by Javier Navarrette

Pan's Labyrinth
El Laberinto del Fauno by Javier Navarrette

The soundtrack to Guillermo del Toro's film is a wonderful album of haunting voices and nursery rhyme-like moments which nicely mixes the magical feeling of wonder with the darker shadows of dread.   A perfect match for the film itself which tells the story of a young girl named Ofelia and her frighteningly dreamlike encounters with a faun, its abandoned dark labyrinth, and the many other monsters that man does not see.  Paired to this story is the tale of her stepfather who hunts for rebels while her mother grows steadily ill during the Spanish Civil War of 1944.

The whole album is structured around the main lullaby which gives the tracks a distinct thematic sound.  I will warn storytellers that if your players are too familiar with the movie, they might find the use of tracks from this soundtrack disconcerting in a game (the way other gamers might not enjoy hearing Star War's Imperial March in any non-Star Wars game, especially in a science fiction role-playing game) but I felt the haunting melody was not as invasive as other movies with recognizable themes.  

Favorite tracks of mine include The Moribund Tree and the Toad (El arbol que muere y el sapo) (Track 06) which has a softer take on the lullaby and a nice use of wind instruments and strings, that carefully weave into a stronger narrative almost reminiscent of how music was used in Final Fantasy games.  The Track entitled Not Human (El que no es humano) (Track 11) is a terrifying track that starts out gentle and mysterious until the brass and drums come into play.  Then the melody rises into a terrifying pitch as it shifts from scary into terrifying.  Yes, for those who have seen this movie, this is the track when the Pale Man attacks.  Track 16, The Funeral, (El funeral) is another favorite, with the strong piano dangling hints of the lullaby before rising into a painful swell that almost sounds accusatory in the way it emotionally hits.    Finally, Pan's Labyrinth Lullaby (Nana del laberinto del fauno) (Track 21) cannot be overlooked.  The solo is heartfelt and anguished, and yet shows a glimmer of hope.  While it echoes the 9th track (Mercedes' Lullaby) the lack of a voice makes this track all the more painful and sad.   There's a clear feeling of loss which can be a powerful tool in storytelling.

Pan's Labyrinth OST track suggestions
WTF moment: Three Trails (Track 05), A Book of Blood (Track 08), Not Human (Track 11)
Introspective/calm moment:  Long, Long Time Ago (Track 01), The Refuge (Track 10), The River (Track 12), Pan's Labyrinth (Track 21)
Tense/mystery moment: The Fairy and the Labyrinth (Track 04), Vals of theMandrake (Track 15), Pan and the Full Moon (Track 18)
Combat music: Guerrilleros (Track 07), Deep Forest (Track 14)
Hopeful moment: The Labyrinth (Track 02), The Moribund Tree and the Toad (Track 06), Ofelia (Track 19)
Drama/sad moment: Rose, Dragon (Track 03), Mercedes' Lullaby (Track 09), A Tale (Track 13), The Funeral (Track 16), Mercedes (Track 17), A Princess (Track 20), Pan's Labyrinth (Track 21)

Best Used In: An ABSOLUTE yes for Changeling the Lost.  The music can also be used wonderfully to score any game that involves children who are not exactly having a great time.  These can be games set in the Victorian era, the modern day, or a post-apocalyptic future.  Also wonderful for games that involve the fair-folk clearly.  So whether its a Hellboy-inspired game, a Castle Falkenstein session with the Sidhe, a darker approach to Changeling the Dreaming, or a less "authentic" Raksha session in Exalted, this soundtrack can work.

Lastly, it can work for ghost stories.  Especially about dead kids.
Enjoy!

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