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Pan's Labyrinth: A Film Analysis

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Orion Rummler

on 16 May 2014

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Transcript of Pan's Labyrinth: A Film Analysis

The movie trailer does little to capture the true essence of the film--it is spoken in Spanish, which can be watched with English subtitles. The story takes place in Spain in May–June 1944, five years after the Spanish Civil War, during the early Francoist period. Several archetypes stand out to the viewer upon viewing this film, each one firmly attached to a distinct character. We'll discuss these in the following slides.
Ofelia: Innocence without Purity
Captain Vidal: Patriarchal Brutality
He is a villain who remains unexcused by the narrative of the story--he shoots without regret and kills without a second thought, appearing to the viewer as little more than a mindless attack dog who understands nothing of compassion or humility. Then it becomes apparent that the monster does feel affection--only for his unborn son, and the legacy that his son will create for him. Captain Vidal holds virtually no love for his new wife, and cares for her only as the vessel through which his son will be born. Here we see the image of a man drenched in machismo and hypermasculine pride, passed down from his war hero father to be the emotional burden that he constantly obsesses over. While other characters in the movie occupy a morally ambiguous state of being in which they could be interpreted as villains or heroes depending on context and point of view--such as the Faun--Vidal is a constant, undisputed evil.
The Faun: Ancient Trickster with Questionable Morals
The dual casting of this character was intended to suggest that the Pale Man (along with the toad, another creature Ofelia must face) is either a creation of the Faun, or the Faun himself in another form. This fact alone suggests that the Faun represents the archetype of the two-faced god--either helpful or deceitful, depending on his mood or the behavior of his point of interest. At one point in the film he abandons Ofelia after she makes a a grave mistake, emotionally manipulating her into desiring to please him by doing better in the next trial to prove her lack of humanity. However, he also guides her and gives her tools in which to get home to the underworld, a place that closely resembles some ideas of heaven. He isn't completely benign or malicious, but a curious mixture of the two.
The Pale Man: Punishment for Greed
He is the final creature that Ofelia must face on her journey home, and he is a manifestation of the downfall that comes to every hero who embarks on an odyssey filled with tasks that test their moral judgement. Shown in the clip on the next slide, Ofelia isn't able to resist the temptation that the Pale Man sits next to, even though she is aware of the danger he presents and the consequences of her actions. When Ofelia visits the Pale Man, her actions show that even our innocent heroine is not immune to greed and gluttony--therefore, she isn't pure, as one might attempt to portray her as. She is much more complex than that, and so is the Pale Man.
Movie Summary/Background
Pan's Labyrinth: A Film Analysis
The death of Captain Vidal ends his story without mercy, which is justified, seeing as he never treats anyone else with mercy. Here the viewer can also see Ofelia's innocence proven, even though it's not shown at the end of this clip--she is innocent enough to open the portal in place of her little brother, whose life she saves through loyalty and selflessness.
She's a forgotten princess of the underworld who's been human far too long to remember anything else; a ten-year-old girl who follows her pregnant mother into a war camp and daydreams of adventure. Throughout the film, Ofelia demonstrates bravery, tenacity, strength, and virtuousness, alongside foolishness and wishful thinking. She is a child, and innocent by default--but her experiences drive her away from cliche assumptions of purity that the viewer might attempt to project onto her. She is a refreshingly realistic character--for a child--who certainly has flaws, yes, but they do not keep her from being the heroine of the story. Her hands are coated in blood as she gets closer to realizing her true heritage, but she never loses sight of the human life she has grown into and become a part of.
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