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Pan’s Labyrinth

Pan’s Labyrinth is not so much a children’s movie. It’s about children, but that’s not really the same thing. Easy mistake, since it’s called a fairy tale and that has certain cultural references for us, but think the original Grimm’s stories.

Which were, admittedly, cautionary. I guess you could take your kid to Pan’s Labyrinth as a cautionary measure against him or her becoming a fascist military officer, but there may be better ways to accomplish that.

Really, though, it’s a fairy tale about the Spanish Civil War. Three acts, three tasks, three parallels to those tasks in the adult world. Ofelia and Mercedes begin by capturing keys; the second task is taking a dagger, mirrored by Mercedes’ knife (and her later use of it). And finally, Ofelia’s choice regarding her brother is precisely Captain Vidal’s choice regarding Ofelia’s mother Carmen — what’s a life worth to you?

Or, perhaps, it’s Mercedes’ choice about Vidal. Hard to say. Is Vidal’s search for information about the rebels likewise a parallel to the quest for the key? Are his torture instruments his dagger? You could read it that way, although I think that’s perhaps a bit more multi-layered than del Toro intended. The pivot point of Ofelia’s brother is enough of a nexus for the parallel quests for me.

On the other hand, I’m perfectly content to assume that the fantasy kingdom is Spain without Franco. Only makes sense.

Pan’s Labyrinth fits in with Labyrinth (sans sentimentality), Heavenly Creatures (sans insanity), and The Great Yokai War (sans Miike). Awesome movie.

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