Pan's Labyrinth: A Fairy tale for Adults

The Faun and Ofelia

"A long time ago, in the underground realm, where there are no lies or pain, there lived a Princess who dreamed of the human world. She dreamed of blue skies, soft breeze, and sunshine. One day, eluding her keepers, the Princess escaped. Once outside, the brightness blinded her and erased every trace of the past from her memory. She forgot who she was and where she came from. Her body suffered cold, sickness, and pain. Eventually, she died. However, her father, the King, always knew that the Princess' soul would return, perhaps in another body, in another place, at another time. And he would wait for her, until he drew his last breath, until the world stopped turning..."
-Pan (first lines in the film)

   Pan's Labyrinth is one of the enigmatic films that I have seen which deals with the struggle of a girl in the adult world. Pan's Labyrinth (Spanish: El Laberinto del Fauno, 2006) presents a dark fantasy with harsh realities, depressed characters and "no happy ending". The film is "about a young girl who enters a mysterious labyrinth and finds herself at the center of the ferocious battle between Good and Evil."

Del Toro & the Faun
   Guillermo del Toro, the director of the film, is a genius filmmaker. Because of the presentation of the story (as well as its technicalities), many interpretation have been flourished. Its "simplicity" gives way to numerous analyses using sociological, psychological and political approach. Even esoteric symbol analysis never missed to analyze this film. The union of History and Fantasy makes the film more dramatic and believable to the audience. 

   The film sets in Spain in 1944. Fascism is penetrating the country, under the authoritarian dictatorship of Francisco Franco. Spain is not yet fully recovered from the horror brought by war (WWII & Spanish Civil War). This set up is perfect to execute the element of fantasy.

   Del Toro uses lots of references in presenting the story. Like the painting of Francisco de Goya called Satum devouring his son (it is blatantly shown in the scene where the Pale man is eating the fairies); and fairy tales such as Alice in Wonderland and Wizard of Oz; and many stories that we are familiar. Del Toro uses these references in his own version and it resulted in a magnificent creation.

Ofelia reads the book that the Faun gave.
 Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), the protagonist of the film, creates the world that she only understands. The harsh realities in the objective world motivates her to create her own fantasy world (the Underworld). Being a bibliophile helps her to create a world according to her interpretation. She has no control of her environment that's why she created this world to seek comfort. The three tasks are created in order to cope with the  death of her father, her ailing mother  and her villainous stepfather. It is also a rite of passage, a common theme  in stories like Alice in Wonderland and Wizard of Oz. "In many cultures, children used fairy tales to cope with pressures of an adult world." A coping mechanism that uses the imagination to develop fantasies that solve and deal with events that are all too big for them.

   Myths, legends and stories are created to understand and explain the unfathomable. It serves as reminder, teaches us a lesson and by reading it thoroughly, we may see the flaws of society. Like Ofelia who is aware that there is something wrong in the objective world, she creates her fantasy world to understand it. But her fantasy poses a question to the viewers. Is it an emancipation or a trap?

Leave a comment below and let me know what you think.