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Pan's Labyrinth - what are your eyes open to seeing?

A look at one of Guillermo Del Toro's finest films and how it asks a question that relates to all of life: "is there anything beyond the material world?"

Thomas Ng

on 30 December 2014

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Transcript of Pan's Labyrinth - what are your eyes open to seeing?

Historical Background
A gothic fairy tale set against the postwar repression of Franco's spain
The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939)
Loyalists (loyal to the government)
Nationalists (the rebels) led by Franco
other left-wing groups
Spanish fascists
other right-wing factions,
Supported by
Supported by
Soviet Union
International Brigades
Roman Catholic Church.
Nazi Germany
Fascist Italy.
With the defeat of the republic in 1939, Franco took control of the government and established a dictatorship that ruled Spain until his death (1975).
Pan's Labyrinth
Set five years after the end of the Spanish Civil War.
The film confronts viewers with the violence of the real world - in this case, Spain under Franco
the year that The Devil's Backbone is set in
(the companion piece to Pan's Labyrinth)
5 year gap
made in 2001
set in Spain 1939

made in 2006
set in Spain 1944

"Unlike a maze, a labyrinth is actually a constant transit of finding, not getting lost. It's about finding, not losing, your way..."
By Tom Ng
Is there anything beyond the material world?
Evidence that it was all in her head
the kitchen table with mandrake-looking roots and vegetables
The captain doesnt see the Faun
Evidence that the fantastic really did happen
The labyrinth parts for Ophelia
and closes for the Captain
the chalk that facilitates escape
the magical world affects the mundane.
Both involve deceit and violence
Both involve the pursuit of immortality
security is the gift of grace
security is achieved through strength
immortality is real
Only those that KNOW where to look – only those that have the right GAZE – can see it.”
“Is there real immortality and real magic? I believe there is… I believe they are a spiritual reality that is as tangible and as real as the material world…
– Guillermo Del Toro
Is it possible that our assumptions about the “reality” of the material world are in fact the true fantasy?
"in your hands, lies your destiny"
(in your decisions)
Press the tutorial presentation mode, press the forward key.

To launch the scripted version (recommended) click on the labyrinth on the right

In this look at Pan's Labyrinth, I'd like to pose a question from the movie that makes us think about the world we live in
(a historical moment with which many aren't familiar with)
set in Spain in 1939, and uses a ghost story to represent the war as a tragic part of Spain's history, one that hasn’t been put to rest, but rather still haunts the present.
And as a result of events such as 9/11, the things that Del Toro had to say about brutality and innocence, childhood and war, changed dramatically.

And the two films mirror these differences.
this repression and violence is personified by captain Vidal And in fact some the violence that he commits is actually based on oral accounts of what happened during this period
So in the face of a cruel and heartless regime, we have the question:
Does Ofelia invent a fantasy world to escape the horrible realities of life that surround her?
are her eyes open to a world that is at first beyond her understanding but ultimately offering hope and immortality?

The film begins with the death of Ophelia, but as we zoom closer, we see the blood flowing back into her body.

We see a reversal of death, and as the film unfolds we see how this girl is being brought to life, reborn in the way that’s she always wanted to be.

And as we come back to this scene again at the end, we are confronted with the question of whether it was real or just made up.

Like the spinning top in inception we have to think about whether what prevailed was merely a dream or what actually happened.
To support the view that it was all in her head, we have this scene in the kitchen.

You see a whole bunch of roots and vegetables, which suggests that maybe Ophelia just grabbed something that was going to be eaten for supper and pretended it had magical properties.
And of course you have the most obvious objection - that anything magic or supernatural cant happen, because, well that’s simply not how reality works.
the captain
lack of faun
there's also the chalk that facilitates her escape. The captain actually picks it up and notices that it doesn’t belong.
And how does she get past armed guards and make it to the captains room without the magic passage that it provides?
the mandrake causes the mother to get better
Could it be that the reason the grown ups don’t see these things happen is simply because they are blind?

That Vidal doesn’t see the Faun is because he lacks vision.
just like how the small traces of the princess' time on earth are visible

only to those who know where to look.
between the two worlds are seen in the film
There are unsettling residents and things to fear in both, and it is hard to know who to trust
Ophelia must complete the tasks to prove her worth to enter an eternal kingdom.
And in the mundane world, Captain Vidal sees his son as a means of extending his name and immortality
That’s why Carmen pleads with Ophelia to accept the captain as her father. Its not that Carmen approves of his world, but she is forced to accept it because of the security that his strength provides.
Even when Ophelia fails to do what was instructed, there is still the possibility of welcome.
In the end the newborn son will not provide the immortality the Captain seeks.
But Ofelia, having endured a dangerous path filled with poisonous thorns has been given a rose of eternal life.
(much like the story that she told her soon-to-be-born brother)
the director himself upholds the view that Ophelia's experiences were real.
Its possible that whether you agree with him or not is contingent on your worldview.
Whether or not you believe that there is more than meets the eye in our world, if there is anything beyond the mundane.

And this is a relevant question to us because if there is, its possible that our assumptions about the “reality” of the material world are in fact the true fantasy
(i.e. the things that we think are important, might turn out to be astonishingly insignificant)
like how Ophelia's mother is so preoccupied with mundane ideas about the dresses and shoes that Ophelia needs to wear.

This all becomes trivial and laughable in light of the fact that Ophelia really is a princess, not just one in appearance because she wears a silly green dress.
Ofelia: I saw a fairy.
Carmen: Just look at your shoes!
Likewise, captain vidal is characterised by his well-oiled, hair, his constant shaving and the polishing of his boots.
He is so obsessed with details that he loses perspective of larger things like people and family
This movie is an allegory that uses fantasy, not as an escape, but as a way to make more real the cruelty, harshness, and inescapable nature of real life. (mentioned in lectures)
Two interpretations that can come out of this movie.
This movie contains shards of truth that spur us on and remind us that there is something fantastic beyond the material world and that to choose not to believe is dooming.
Like the passive unbelief of the mother, who resigns herself to a hopeless situation.
And the active disbelief of the captain, who denies anything that isnt part of his well ordered life. And both of them end in death.
At the labyrinth entrance, an inscription reads:
What are your eyes open to seeing?
What are your eyes open to seeing?
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The end
if you have any comments, send them to omega_tom_no1@hotmail.com
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