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Pan’s Labyrinth: Shooting fish in a barrel

Pan’s Labyrinth: Shooting fish in a barrel published on 2 Comments on Pan’s Labyrinth: Shooting fish in a barrel

Yesterday I went to see the long-awaited Pan’s Labyrinth, in which 10-year-old Ofelia exchanges the horrors of post-WWII Spain for the equally viscous horrors of her imagination. While her mother dies in childbed and her shinily sadistic stepfather shoots resistance fighters for sport, Ofelia turns to an ambiguous faun, who offers her the prospect of royalty in a dream world if she can complete three disgusting tasks.

For 99.9% of the movie, I liked it.

I recognized the film’s world as a stylized one marked by lavishly excessive violence, pain and suffering, and I accepted it because I expected the film to go somewhere interesting or say something new. But no. Instead the film just copped out completely in the final minutes by having the sadistic stepfather shoot Ofelia at point blank in the center of the titular labyrinth. After that, everything was just stupid and I didn’t care.

I spent some time trying to figure out why Ofelia’s death seemed like such a cop-out. I decided that the reason was NOT because I liked her as a character. Heck, I liked Dr. Ferreiro and the sadistic captain as characters too, but their deaths seemed appropriate and satisfying in the context of the story. Since I had an emotional connection to Ofelia, I didn’t like her death, but my objection to her death is motivated by more than mere sympathy.

I finally decided that I objected to Ofelia’s death because it did not fit stylistically with the rest of the movie. The bulk of the movie was about the insidious ways in which violence, war and torture poison even the innocent imagination. The horrors of war are inescapable. The disgusting aspects of human nature appear even in the realm of our imaginations. Following this logic, we should have seen the captain’s final murderous act NOT coming from him. To have him shoot Ofelia is like the movie saying, “EVIL = EVIL.” No shit. I knew that already. I don’t care. The captain’s murderous act should have been transferred partly or fully to the Faun, who should have threatened not just Ofelia’s brother’s life, but also Ofelia’s. If the actions of the Faun and the captain worked in concert to kill Ofelia, this would have been much more thematically satisfying.

I swear…del Toro just chickened out at the end of Pan’s Labyrinth. Instead of following the slimy ambiguity of his themes to their logical ends, he chose to reinforce a superficial, artificial dualism. Despite the sheer awesomeness of the main performers [especially Doug Jones as the Faun and the Pale Man] and special effects and gore, I still feel let down.




I agree with medaespes. I don’t think this movie was about the horrors of war, but more about the connection between the spiritual world and our own. Both worlds were equally terrifying, but love and courage could survive in either one. Mercedes and Ofelia’s stories seem to parallel each other all the way through the film! I took Ofelia and Mercedes’ relationship to represent the deep bond that exists between both worlds – even when those that share the bond may be unaware of it. At the end, they both returned to their real families by fierce acts of love and courage.

I loved the way the magic kept wrapping itself into everyday life – like when the book told Ofelia her mother was bleeding and when the labyrinth walls shifted to hide Ofelia and the baby from the Captain. I also noticed the way Mercedes never really questioned Ofelia’s assertion that she had met a fawn, but rather passed along her own mother’s warning.

The only thing that did not sit well with me was the seeming inevitability of Ofelia’s death. That made the whole thing seem like she had no choice in the matter when the entire point was supposed to have been that choice. She chose not to spill her brother’s blood, but she did not choose to spill her own. The Captain would have shot her had she surrendered the child or not.

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