Pan’s People

I watched Pan’s Labyrinth (El laberinto del fauno) last weekend. It was very good, and not at all what I had been erroneously led to expect, which was some sort of Spanish Harry Potter (Quique Alfarero?). Instead, it was a bloody and shocking dramatisation of post-Civil War Spain, with echoes of Greek mythology, the Bible, and Alice in Wonderland-style surrealism. Goya and Dalí are also obvious influences in the young girl’s fantasies of labyrinths and mythic beasts.

The film switches between two ‘worlds’: the outer world of fascist Spain in 1944, and the inner fantasy world that a young girl (Ofelia) enacts.

Faun

The relation between the two worlds is largely left to the imagination of the viewer, although it is hard to escape the conclusion that the monsters conjured forth by Ofelia correspond to the fascist authoritarianism of the outer world, embodied by Captain Vidal, a macho thug who -when not enjoying torture- is using Ofelia’s mother as the vessel for the continuation of his family line of masculine heroes.

Vidal

(Images:Rotten Tomatoes)

Vidal is in love with death, in particular the death of his own father, which defines his own life. Just as his father (a miltary hero in North Africa: echoes of Franco) threw his timepiece against a rock at the moment of his death -in a manifestation of irrationalism par excellence- so that his son would know the exact time when it happened, Vidal carries his own timepiece in preparation for the same. The scene depicting the moment of Vidal’s death is nothing short of remarkable.

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