Pan’s Labyrinth: a Fascist Fairytale
I’m fairly certain that Guillermo del Toro was trying to piss me off with his beautifully filmed, marvelously acted, Academy Award nominated masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth. How else could you explain his use of nearly every fairytale device in what is so disturbingly not a fantasy film?
Set in World War II Spain, the film depicts the conflict between government soldiers and rebels, with a well-read youngster caught in the middle. Ofelia is this girl, and it is her imagination that provides the fantastic elements. The film, while featuring actually fairies, isn’t a fairy tale — it’s a comparison of reality vs. fantasy, where reality is ultimately victorious.
After a week, I can appreciate Mr. del Toro’s intentions, and find much to enjoy in El Laberinto del Fauno, but his rejection of fantasy as self-delusion still stings. My wife reminded me that the original Wizard of Oz constructed a similar, completely contained, unverifiable “fantasy” world, so I’m prepared to place them both firmly in the anti-fantasy genre. After all, poor Dorothy was right back in depression-era Kansas when all was said and done, without even a pair of ruby slippers to pawn.
If only Ofelia had been so lucky.
Written by Jeff in January of 2007. Last edited September 2014.