Director Meets Myth

Watched Pan's Labyrinth by Mexican director Guillermo del Toro. The hype about this film is deserved. It's truly an adult fairy tale. Truly a work of art. Truly mesmerizing.

As I think over my experience of watching Pan's Labyrinth, I am struck by tone of the acting, the set and costume work, the story...and the purpose of myth.

WARNING: Spoilers ahead!

When I reached the sad end of the story in Pan's Labyrinth, I was sure that the Ofelia did not have to die. It was not inevitable. I could think of many ways in which her life could have been saved. But the fact of the story is she did die. And the myth that envelopes the film serves to explain or give meaning to her (avoidable) death. Indeed, that is the purpose of myth, right? To provide meaning to the consequences of life. Not all consequences are necessary. But it is necessary to give the consequences meaning...necessary to our human psyche, anyway.

In fact, I would say that myth makes the real-life consequences seem inevitable, unavoidable, when in reality they are not. That contrast in this film (or the way I viewed it; I may be the only one that sees it this way) makes Pan's Labyrinth such a mature and risky story. It illustrates how myth plays in real life. Not all see the same myth. But all myth serves the same purpose, giving meaning to the consequences of our lives. Ofelia's death fulfills the myth. That is myth's purpose. However objectively tragic (and avoidable) her death may have been, we hunger -- we NEED -- that mythical meaning, or life would feel random, purposeless. It's why we have religions and why they take up such an important part of many human lives; because they provide the meaning for the consequences of life. It's a powerful, human need. And it's beautifully portrayed in Pan's Labyrinth by director Guillermo del Toro.

Pan's Labyrinth, Directed by Guillermo del Toro

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~Ali — 30 September 2007, 08:43

I just want to say that it is not clear whether or not Ofelia died. What I mean is that it is not clear that the "underworld" is just fantasy or if it is actually real. You can interpret it both ways. One crucial clue of the reality of the underworld appears at the end, when ofelia escapes from her locked room by drawing a door on the wall with the magic chalk. No matter how you look at this, there is no way to explain this event other than to say that there was indeed a magic chalk, and thus that the whole "alternate fantasy world" is real, and not just in Ofelia's imagination.

~Ali — 30 September 2007, 09:03

Just to add to my previous post, Del Toro himself said that the fantasy world is real, and that he puts clues in the movie to indicate that it's real . See interview below:

~Brent — 30 September 2007, 10:38

Hey Ali! Thanks so much for sharing that. I'll have a look.

~Kristen — 10 October 2007, 19:45

She does die at the end. She has died and been reborn in the human world several times as they say. That's why they want to make sure her "essense" has not turned human. Her human part has to die at the end (her body) so that her soul can be reborn in the underworld (afterlife/heaven).

Very spiritual movie. Fast becoming one of my all-time favorites.

~Brent — 10 October 2007, 20:15

Hey Kristen! Thanks so much for your comment. What you said makes sense...and I also find this film becoming a haunting favorite of mine.