Sunday, September 16, 2007

El Laberinto Del Fauno (Pan's Labyrinth)








What an amazing film. I finally got to see this after waiting weeks and weeks for my name to move down the long wait list at the local library. My friend Willowtree has an excellent review of this film that she wrote on June 6, 2007, something I could not improve upon, so I will describe more of my feelings about the film itself. In reading the Wikipedia entry on the film, a fellow director of Labyrinth's director, Guillermo del Toro, describes the film as "very Catholic" (although del Toro himself prefers "profane" - surely in the sense of earthly, and the here and now, as opposed to the "sacred" of the otherworldly). Coming from a Catholic backround, at least nominally, I can see such a description quite plainly throughout the storyline, and most certainly in the final scenes (which look much like a Catholic Mass altar, writ large). It is a story of innocence, courage, and redemption, so it is very much within the Catholic/Christian tradition. The pre-Catholic mythical aspects of the film though, with fauns and fairies, and other mythical creatures, hearkens back to a pre-Christian Europe, when the Old Religion still held sway, and when Pan the nature deity, ruled over forests full of the spirits and forces of the natural world. One of the many deeper allegories evoked by this film is how we have long become disconnected from the natural world, and therefore cannot relate with what folklorist and scholar Mircea Eliade called the "enchantment" of the world when such beliefs, including the very embodiment of spiritual existence as being at one with the natural realm, ruled supreme. Science and modern lifestyles have done away with much of that, leaving us only an existential, bleak landscape. Films such as this though, evoke that lost enchantment, and tell us that through things such as art and creation, the hope for such worlds can still go on. As well, the word "myth", according to folklorist Joseph Campbell, describes not a story which is untrue, but in fact refers to the story of those things that have the most deepest of meanings to human beings, and therefore serve for us in reality, as the highest of truths. When Ofelia creates a doorway with chalk, or sees her future in the book of blank pages, we can see that the world of myth and enchantment can have effects in the real world, and at times can even serve as a "necessity" for survival.

Another aspect I really liked about the film was how the fascist regime of Francisco Franco's Spain was paralled against the mythical world of the little girl, Ofelia. This to me was another allegory for a real world full of much pain and suffering, juxtaposed against a mythical world where hope still perhaps might be found. Ofelia was able to retreat from the oppression surrounding her into a world so real that it was able to carry her through, to her final, if unfortunate destiny. Even here though, the film provides hope, a hope that innocence can conquer evil, one day here on earth, as with the Resistance to Franco's evil regime, as well as beyond, through the love of Ofelia for her missing father, her love being her very "essence", as described in the film when she is tested by the faun to see if she has maintained such "essence"; and with whom she, in her last dying moments, is ultimately reunited with in the most glorious of ways. There was a line in the film by the faun, who says at one point something to the effect of,"by knowing of that which is missing or absent from us, we are in that way assured of its very real and true essence." I think that this may now be my most favorite film of all time.

2 Comments:

Blogger willowtree said...

Frank, I'm so glad you got to see the film!
You saw so much more than I did, I like that you touched on the fact that things in the mythical world can have effects on the real world, and is sometimes even necessary to survive.
That's so very true.
I like how we can bring our experiences to the same film, and learn so much more about it, it's building on the film and its meaning, what it could mean, and what it presents. Like the whole Catholic theme, I would have never caught that, because I dont have much previous experience with Catholicism, but since you mentioned it, the next time I see it- I'll remember what you said.
I think this is a film that could be learned from each time you watch it. There will be more each time because you go to it with new experiences each time.
Those are some of the best ones.

9:53 AM  
Blogger Frank said...

You're exactly right about learning more each time, as in the DVD extras Del Toro talks about that, and how the film is so layered that each time you watch it, you'll see more. I'd say that the Catholicism was probably more of an "influence" rather than a "theme", though. On Wikipedia Del Toro says, "once a Catholic, always a Catholic", so it comes through in your work, even if you no longer practice, it seems. And, he's into Taoism too! Some things I've already noticed by just watching clips in the extras:

Ofelia's new dress - at one point wearing it in the forest, she looks exactly like our image of Snow White.

Ofelia's red shoes in last scenes - a tribute to Wizard of OZ, as Del Toro even says.

The Story of the Rose - pulled almost directly from the Little Prince.

That's just a few things I noticed already. And in the DVD extras interview on Charlie Rose, Del Toro, along with 2 other Mexican directors, talks about always seeing a faun poke around his dresser drawer clock at exactly 12 midnight many nights, in his childhood. And he was dead serious! You could see that Charlie and the other two did not know quite how to respond to that (!!!)

9:36 AM  

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