The movie 'El Laberinto del Fauno' with 'Pan's Labyrinth' as English translation of the title directed by Del Toro revolves round the issue of the reason behind story telling. Although it is fact that in traditional fairy tales the validity and authenticity of magic and wonder is not questioned yet many characters in modern fairy tales fiction as well as movies are shown arguing that magic does not exist. Why it is so that several stories conclude at the end that magic that the character and audiences experience while going through a story either reading it or watching in the form of a film is dismisses like a dream? is it so that some characters insist to privilege truth upon lies in the fiction fairy tale and films is merely setting up the corny argument that some lies tell a greater truth than just facts?
The current essay is an exploration of the themes presented in "Pan's Labyrinth." In the background of the story of the film, the author will try to explore what has been actually depicted in this fairy tale film. The author has particularly focused on the characterization and location of the film, the themes; narrative desires and disobedience and the struggle between evil and good.
The Location and Characterization
A sense of wonder is prominent in Pan's Labyrinth right from the beginning. The film starts with the voice of a story teller altogether with the images of an underground kingdom that are shown with the voice. The images itself are depiction of a magical location beyond the spatial location that can be accessed through worldly resources. The story of the film tells the audience about a princess who is curious to know about the primary world but when she comes to the real world she forgets her reality and belonging to the underworld and dies as mortal. The father of the princess who is a king believes that her soul will come to the underground kingdom someday. The story now moves forward from this secondary world to the real world where the period of post-war Spain in 1944 is shown. The imagery in the film even where real world is shown is shoot with a style; woods with golden tone having backlit, haloed pollen falling down in a magic way on a group of cars that are slowly running along a dirt road. The location of the Pan's Labyrinth is a simple mill. This location seems secondary in the perspective that the period of time shown in the film is very far past for the twenty fist century audience. Shooting a time 50 years back is itself out of daily experiences of the modern audience. Del Toro described in the production notes that to distinct real and magic world the color and details were used which were short in the real world while the magic world was shown with details objects and saturated colors.
The film revolves around the character Ofelia who is a girl entering into adolescence and has faith in fairy tales. Ofelia who is living in a big city with her mother now travels to the woods that seem magical to go to live with her step father. Ofelia perceives woods as a magical world and this is clear in the beginning of the film.
Being a child and having belief in fairy tales Ofelia believes in magic and magical characters. When the film reaches its climax Ofelia is shown speaking to a magical faun near the Labyrinth. For a moment the focus of the scene switches as Captain Vidal enters searching Ofelia but he is unable to see the faun she is talking to. It has been discussed by many critics that the presence of children in fairy tales is considered essential because they have ability to feel the supernatural and have a sixth sense. This theme is very common in modern fairy tale films.
This innocence is the main characteristic of fairy tale films. In Pan's Labyrinth the focalization of Ofelia; her response to the metamorphosis of the stick bug into an actual fairy is wonder and is the strongest points that contribute to the sense of wonder in the film. It is her innocence and belief in fairy tales and magical characters that she does not hesitate to follow a fairy beckons when she asks Ofelia to come with her and takes her into a dark Labyrinth where she meets old Faun. The Faun appears to be a monster but instead of being afraid from him Ofelia introduces herself and asks his name. The Faun tells her that she is in fact Princes Moanna, "daughter of the King of the Underworld" but Ofelia does not believe and insists that her father was a tailor, but when Faun shows the birthmark in the shape of a moon that is an identification of a princess of the underworld kingdom she believe and starts accomplishing the tasks that are necessary to allow her to go back to her father's realm.
Theme: Desire and Disobedience
In the beginning of the film, character Ofelia's mother who is pregnant takes a story book from her hands saying, "I don't understand why you had to bring so many books, Ofelia. Fairy tales, you're a bit too old to be filling your head with such nonsense." (Pan's Labyrinth, 2006) While saying these words to Ofelia, Carmon (mother) suddenly feels a desire to vomit. Thus a very important theme of this movie can be presented as a warning: if you reject fairy tale it will make you barf.
Though it is only a joke to give warning yet the story and storytelling in Pan's Labyrinth is not a matter of joke. In this film dominant attention has been given to storytelling instead of just as a magic potion for the hardships of real life. Here the association between characters of the film and stories is a key to survival for both the tales themselves and the protagonists that narrate them.
The main theme I am going to discuss in this essay is 'disobedience': the disobedience of characters of the film to fulfill desires of audience and formal generic expectations. Thus Pan's Labyrinth is the story which opposes the conventional and regulatory discourses of the characters as the same time the film also challenges the critics as well as viewers to produce reductive readings.
Overall Pan's Labyrinth is a genuine cinematic fairy tale film having all the elements of a formal fairy tale visual representation. Its literary taste, visual representation of imagery and magical world and monsters all are the elements of a fairy tale film. The traditional fairy tale image is obvious from its heroine like the other well-known heroines such as Snow White, Lewis Carroll's Alice and Dorothy of MGM's The Wizard of Oz (1939). The association of heroine to the popular fairy tales heroines can be seen in the look of Ofelia; having black hair, white skin and red lips; her dress and pinafore that she gets from her mother and finally the red shoes she taps at the end of Pan's Labyrinth. The inter-textual reference also represent the particular nature of the fairy story, in which recognizable imagery, structures of plot and types of characters from fairy tales have been shown but along with this, the film also represents other genres like eras political drama, horror, and dark fantasy. Thus the hybrid nature of Pan's Labyrinth depicts a form of disobedience for the expectations of viewers related to all the genres by making combination to the genres that are usually distinct. Another notable thing is the informal 'disobedient' choices that the Guillermo Del Toro has made being director, writer and producer himself of the film. These choices have been described by him in his extra-dietetic-voice-over commentary on the DVD.
In a fairy tale, disobedience is very important factor. It is so important that Vladimir Propp has noted "interdiction" and "violation" of the interdiction functions II and III in "Morphology of the Folktale." Obviously often the particular act of disobedience sets the story in motion or helps to continue it on its trajectory. The disobedience in Snow White is shown when she does not obey the dwarves and replies the door to the witch; similarly Dorothy shows disobedience by running away from the farm; Alice does not accompany her sister in chasing the white rabbit. In film Pan's Labyrinth, the basic theme is disobedience, which is shown as a positive power for the story and even essential for the survival of the positive characters. Also I would debate the disobedience is not just the base of the film Pan's Labyrinth but is closely relative to plot desires.
Thematically, the film opposes martial patriarchal master narratives through the character of housekeeper Mercedes, who is a member of the anti-fascist rebels, and also via the disobedience of the character Ofelia. The film interlinks discrete tales and storylines; engages both the genus of fairy story as well as…