Pan’s Labyrinth is said to be one of thegreatest cinematic fantasy films created. Written and directed by Guillermo DelToro in 2006, the film excellently blends fantasy with reality.
On one hand, the filmexpresses several fantastical and imaginative themes. However, the film also focuses on reality reflectingon post-civil war Spain under the uniform of Franco’s fascists. Guillermo Del Toro use of fantasyis crucial, as it opens a new angle in which the audience can critically analyzethe weight of the evil aspects of fascism and human desire for power. The imagination is one of themost unique tools utilized to achieve a better reality in both Pan’sLabyrinth and in part, the world around us.
The story is setin Post-Civil War Spain, in the year 1944. Pan’s Labyrinthtells a story of a little girl named Ofelia, who moves into the countryside withher pregnant mother,Carmen, to live with herstepfather, Captain Vidal who is a high-ranking official in the Spanish Army. The aftermath of the war isstill prevalent, leading Ofelia to consume herself by a far different better world. Early in the film, Ofelia comesupon a mystical creature, the faun, which leads her away from reality into theworld of fantasy. The faun truly sets the story in motion by explaining toOfelia that she is in fact a princess of a mysterious underworld that closelyparallels the land of reality.
In order for her to return home and become animmortal part of this imaginative kingdom, she is required to complete three tasks. Throughthis process, Ofelia establishes herself as a devoted and brave character thatwants nothing more than to leave her painful world behind.The theme of reality verses fantasy is represented throughoutthe entirety of the film. This theme also reflects sub-themes of human desirefor power, survival and ultimately a utopian world.
The film uses juxtapositionas it examines fairytale interpretations with a horrific reality to effectivelycreate a film that expresses convincingly the value of imagination when facedwith these adversaries. Guillermo DelToro portrays these ideas and messages with fairytale allusions and motifs thattraces the horror of reality right back to the essentials of our childhoods. Bydoing this Del Toro helps exercises the audiences imagination, allowing themerging of both worlds and causing them to remain inseparable throughout thefilm.
The transformation of the real creatures into fairies, and the noting oftime in both create a bridge between the worlds that reflects the freedom ofOfelia’s imaginative kingdom and world in comparison to the vulnerability sheexperiences in reality. This brings up the idea that our imagination reflectsthe realities we live in and presents them as metaphoric symbols reflecting notonly true events but our subconscious emotions. Del Toro introduces andresolves Pan’s Labyrinth in fantasy, hitting home the importance of fantasy. Byutilizing the fantasy world this allows Del Toro to make a political comment onrebellion and survival through Ofelia, thus hitting the audience at the core ofour own upbringing; through the convention of fairytales that have been told touse since youth. Del Toro’s use of the fantasy world as well helps indicatethe time period – Post-Civil War Spain in the age of Franco’s regime. Del Toroagain uses the theme of fantasy vs reality in order to further enhance thevivid brutality of the fascist regime. There are many symbols and repeatedshots that indicate this. Throughout Pan’s Labyrinth, Del Toro purposefullycreates Ofelia’s imaginative world to be a reflection of the fascist regime.
Thefantasy creates a distortion of reality that symbolizes the oppressive andtruly 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 audienceabout his specific attitudes towards fascism and on a more general scale, tohumanity’s desire for power and control over the circumstances we live in. Thefantastical mirror image of the real world in Pan’s Labyrinth is crucial tounderstanding the essence of the human imagination as it inspires rebellion andsuggests to the viewer that the imagination is necessary to escape the horrorsaround us. Del Toro further uses theimagination to symbolically assure his audience of the brutality of fascism.Although not all his viewers have been exposed to fascism, we are educatedthrough allusion and symbolism in the fantastical world to loathe the fascism CaptainVidal represents. Ofelia’s fantastical world leaves so much to the audience’simagination within Pan’s Labyrinth, that the exploration of it becomes a windowthat allows the audience to explore into the malevolent nature Del Toro makesfascism out to be. He shows it to be suppressive and almost non-human in itsantagonistic representation through the character Vidal.
Pan’s Labyrinth is a chilling story about the fight for freedom andthe risks that must be taken in order to achieve it.