The realism of fantasy in the Labyrinth of Pan by Guillermo del Toro
Opening scene. Everything is strangely silent.
Up to: a voice, on a slope of snoring. A choppy breath is inserted. The menacing voice of an invisible narrator tells us no one is safe.
We watch a bloody trail retreat into the nose of a girl who is bent into our gaze. Knocked down, shaded in forest green, looking away until we are forced into it; we think it must be her, Ofelia. We step back and every figure we see is etched in darkness. If a color finds its way to the right gaze, it turns and changes, escaping the huge slag heaps that are interspersed with large mounds of excavated rock and stony depressions. Although unknown, this is indeed our own world.
The sun seeps through the frame, a lone match, and the ruins become more distraught under the onslaught of yellow light. Bordering something on the verge of disappearing, the horizon of life seems obstructed by the sky. We are just a blind spot on the decimated landscape.
Silence falls again. We turn to a page representing the silhouette of a different world, and the girl reading it is ardently immersed.
For a moment, the spectacles of suffering slowly recede from its biased, normative world.
A collection of spaces weaves the awareness of Pan’s Labyrinth fantastic cards. Cool slates and blue-gray hues seem to dry out the landscape with all its warmth, while auburn and curd yellows boldly braise the screen. For the underworld, the wary medium of existence, is covered with mighty greens that invade creatures like flames in a dance of startling color. It’s the anatomy of del Toro’s haunting revitalization of the essence of fairy tales. A dynamic balance between will and surrender, del Toro deals with the subject of the fantasy genre with the calculated conflict inherent in its conventions. Psychological tendencies in fiction, in general, seek a transformative effect. It’s not the desire to escape to the indigo foothills of a fantasy realm far removed from the mundane sepia hues of life that preoccupies Del Toro himself, it’s the human demand for constant movement. And its cinematic look perpetuates that idea as a repeating and shifting foreground erasure insists that the worlds of the film’s trajectory are not interspersed – they inhabit the edges of the same frame. By preserving negative photographs of the real world in the downworld, del Toro uses this fantastic in-between to distort the norms of storytelling and individuality.
His monstrous characters act as devices that express the tapestry of human morality made flesh. Allegorizing the Spanish Civil War, Pan’s Labyrinth is thrown into the dark indictment of a savage memory that resurfaces the repressive attitudes that continue to torment post-war Spanish consciousness. “Civil war,” says the director, “which has never fully healed in Spain, is a ghost, all that is outstanding is a ghost.” Driven to devour by a frenzied appetite, the monsters come to embody the Kafkaesque nightmares of the real political governing bodies of Phalangist Spain. The film bears witness to the horrors of these two worlds – the historicized world of Francoism and the fantastic world of fairies and monsters – and invites viewers to reflect on their own responses.
With care, del Toro suggests, you can create neural pathways, alternate pathways to understanding where you stand within the framework of moral certainties, but you can’t go back on steps you should have taken. The director himself is known for his multifaceted thinking; A crudely realistic and outdated Catholic (which he says is “not quite the same as an atheist”), del Toro is perpetually drawn to the occult lure of the supernatural. The faun is alternately Ofelia’s guide to the underworld, her protector, her retribution, and perhaps even her eyeing foe. The Pale Man is characterized by a Gothic marriage between tyranny and its subsequent repercussions, making the creature altered and mutilated by its similarly tortured inner state. Despite these supernatural manifestations of physical horror, the true monstrosity emerges in the form of a human: Captain Vidal. Vidal is a prominent instigator of soldiers’ forced blindness which he stabs in the eyes repeatedly until he himself is blinded by the end of the film. This brutal violence is not stylistic but unsatisfying, almost as if del Toro is blatantly emphasizing the immoral nature of good character, which is close to how it would be portrayed in a children’s fairy tale book: simple and clear in order to build the role of responsible testimony among its readers.
On Ofelia’s death, the symbolic colors, which distinguished the three levels of consciousness at play throughout the film, intertwine and become contaminated to signify the worldly pollination between the fantastic and the real. The intricate layering of the film’s ending lends itself to two, perhaps even more, important critical conclusions; the film follows a dark fairy tale of the last days about a princess who must escape the horrors of our world to return to her own or, alternatively; The Mandrake story serves as a necessary invention for a young girl to cope with her unbearable trauma, blaming her mother’s death on the evil Captain Vidal. This perspective of ambiguity is rich in del Toro’s appeal to his audience to push their reflections on the narratives and the visual frames that delimit to see or not to see, the position of the subject and the agency of the characters, of the position. to witness the film itself.
“I was trying… to discover a common thread between the ‘real world’ and the ‘imaginary world’ through one of the fundamental concerns of fairy tales: choice. This is something that has intrigued me ever since Cronos, through Hellboy and now at Pan’s Labyrinth: the way your choices define you. And I thought it would be great to counterbalance a lack of institutional choice, which is fascism, with the ability to choose. And, surely, del Toro’s voice seems to cling to that of the narrator when he tells us that little gashes of escape can be traced in our own realities, our own mortal world – but only for those who know where to look. .
The story demands friction, a labyrinthine path to understanding, and del Toro’s own fantasy world is one that demands to be exploited; which forces us to have the courage to face what makes us uncomfortable, to dive into the unknown, to be afraid for the right reasons, to be reborn, then to start all over again.
The fantasy, the form of the fable, in Pan’s Labyrinth, is more ideological than aesthetic. Ultimately, you know there is no going back to the beginning, no knowing who you always have been, no going home. But you also know that there is no way to stay where you are: that the moment your body sutures into a whole and stable place, you know that something will give way and you will be transformed into deformity again. simple parts.
So let the stories force themselves on you, because at the end of the day, you really don’t know if they’re really fictional after all.