Pan’s Labyrinth is said to be one of the
greatest cinematic fantasy films created. Written and directed by Guillermo Del
Toro in 2006, the film excellently blends fantasy with reality. On one hand, the film
expresses several fantastical and imaginative themes. However, the film also focuses on reality reflecting
on post-civil war Spain under the uniform of Franco’s fascists. Guillermo Del Toro use of fantasy
is crucial, as it opens a new angle in which the audience can critically analyze
the weight of the evil aspects of fascism and human desire for power. The imagination is one of the
most unique tools utilized to achieve a better reality in both Pan’s
Labyrinth and in part, the world around us.

The story is set
in Post-Civil War Spain, in the year 1944. Pan’s Labyrinth
tells a story of a little girl named Ofelia, who moves into the countryside with
her pregnant mother,
Carmen, to live with her
stepfather, Captain Vidal who is a high-ranking official in the Spanish Army. The aftermath of the war is
still prevalent, leading Ofelia to consume herself by a far different better world. Early in the film, Ofelia comes
upon a mystical creature, the faun, which leads her away from reality into the
world of fantasy. The faun truly sets the story in motion by explaining to
Ofelia that she is in fact a princess of a mysterious underworld that closely
parallels the land of reality. In order for her to return home and become an
immortal part of this imaginative kingdom, she is required to complete three tasks. Through
this process, Ofelia establishes herself as a devoted and brave character that
wants nothing more than to leave her painful world behind.

The theme of reality verses fantasy is represented throughout
the entirety of the film. This theme also reflects sub-themes of human desire
for power, survival and ultimately a utopian world. The film uses juxtaposition
as it examines fairytale interpretations with a horrific reality to effectively
create a film that expresses convincingly the value of imagination when faced
with these adversaries.  Guillermo Del
Toro portrays these ideas and messages with fairytale allusions and motifs that
traces the horror of reality right back to the essentials of our childhoods. By
doing this Del Toro helps exercises the audiences imagination, allowing the
merging of both worlds and causing them to remain inseparable throughout the
film. The transformation of the real creatures into fairies, and the noting of
time in both create a bridge between the worlds that reflects the freedom of
Ofelia’s imaginative kingdom and world in comparison to the vulnerability she
experiences in reality. This brings up the idea that our imagination reflects
the realities we live in and presents them as metaphoric symbols reflecting not
only true events but our subconscious emotions. Del Toro introduces and
resolves Pan’s Labyrinth in fantasy, hitting home the importance of fantasy. By
utilizing the fantasy world this allows Del Toro to make a political comment on
rebellion and survival through Ofelia, thus hitting the audience at the core of
our own upbringing; through the convention of fairytales that have been told to
use since youth.  

Del Toro’s use of the fantasy world as well helps indicate
the time period – Post-Civil War Spain in the age of Franco’s regime. Del Toro
again uses the theme of fantasy vs reality in order to further enhance the
vivid brutality of the fascist regime. There are many symbols and repeated
shots that indicate this. Throughout Pan’s Labyrinth, Del Toro purposefully
creates Ofelia’s imaginative world to be a reflection of the fascist regime. The
fantasy creates a distortion of reality that symbolizes the oppressive and
truly evil aspects of fascism and advises us to rebel in any way we can.
Guillermo Del Toro uses characters and visuals in order to educate the audience
about his specific attitudes towards fascism and on a more general scale, to
humanity’s desire for power and control over the circumstances we live in. The
fantastical mirror image of the real world in Pan’s Labyrinth is crucial to
understanding the essence of the human imagination as it inspires rebellion and
suggests to the viewer that the imagination is necessary to escape the horrors
around us. Del Toro further uses the
imagination to symbolically assure his audience of the brutality of fascism.
Although not all his viewers have been exposed to fascism, we are educated
through allusion and symbolism in the fantastical world to loathe the fascism Captain
Vidal represents. Ofelia’s fantastical world leaves so much to the audience’s
imagination within Pan’s Labyrinth, that the exploration of it becomes a window
that allows the audience to explore into the malevolent nature Del Toro makes
fascism out to be. He shows it to be suppressive and almost non-human in its
antagonistic representation through the character Vidal. Pan’s Labyrinth is a chilling story about the fight for freedom and
the risks that must be taken in order to achieve it. 


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