As part of the Cannes Film Festival in 2006, an amazing fantasy drama was released. On a historical basis and with a share of moments from which a chill runs down the back, she won the hearts of first Spain and Mexico – the director’s homeland, and then the whole world, entering the list of time-tested “classics”.
A characteristic feature in the director’s work, of course, is the search for a deeper “second plan”. This is especially noticeable in the film adaptation of the literary works of the English writer Arthur Macken.
Pan’s Labyrinth is the second film in the Spanish Civil War trilogy. He opened the collection “The Devil’s Backbone” (2001), and the third was to be “3993”, the script of which was written by the director in his student years, but the premiere did not take place. Against the backdrop of realistic military events, the story of contact with the ghost of a dead boy is written.
In the center of the plot is the girl Ophelia. The gray and gloomy atmosphere of the reality of Spain during martial law is also similar in mood to a fairy-tale world. Which is in some way an exceptional feature from the usual patterns, where such a world is presented as salvation and a good fairy tale. However, the director does not question the reality of this world, but leaves freedom for the imagination of the audience. Whether the world is true or not, everyone has to decide for themselves.
In parallel, the line of the other world is revealed. It tells about Muanna, a princess who fell in love with the beauty of the “world under the moon” and, never finding her way home, died. But her father – the ruler, having created several secret doors, does not lose hope and waits for her return.
Events unfold in 1944, everything that happens is a prototype of real events. The power of Franco, the really existing personality of the military generalisimo, is being established throughout Spain. But the partisan movement, in spite of everything, continues to try to overthrow the unjust dictator. Which, in turn, creates counter detachments, the head of one of which is Ophelia’s stepfather, Captain Vidal. Together with his people, he is located in the wilderness at the old mill. With him is his wife Carmen, the girl’s mother, a soft and kind-hearted woman.
His own father died, and Vidal does not try to build himself an exemplary family man, he accepts his stepdaughter only because he is waiting for the birth of his son, with whom Carmen is pregnant. Walking around the neighborhood, the main character finds the ruins of a stone labyrinth.
At night, a fairy comes to her, which immediately reveals the character of the entire magical world. The creatures in it are far from fabulous, but realistically repulsive and frightening. Guided by a fairy, Ophelia goes further into the labyrinth and meets the key figure of the Faun, who reveals the truth to the girl. She is the princess who was lost a long time ago and is now reborn for the last time in this world, she can return home, but for this you need to complete three tasks. To help, the Faun gives an unusual book that will help Ophelia on her journey.
After passing the first test, the action is transferred to our world, where it is revealed that the brother of the nanny Mercedes, caring for the girl, is the head of the rebels. Carmen – the girl’s mother is in poor health and on the verge of a miscarriage, and Ophelia is waiting for the second task, in which she is in real danger in the form of a terrible monster. Failing, she realizes that everything is very serious, and she will not return to the magical world. The faun leaves her.
Meanwhile, the girl’s mother dies. Captain Vidal, with his newborn son in his arms, buries his wife and prepares Ofelia to leave. He also learns about the betrayal of Mercedes, and the situation in the film heats up to the limit.
Here it is worth mentioning that the director deliberately warms up the discussion about the reality of the magical world. Yes, magical creatures do not exist, but at least three things are materialized in reality: a magic book, chalk and a mandrake given by a faun, not only have a tangible form, but are not without magical charms.
The scales are inclined to the fact that rather war and reality are a nightmare for a girl. Although the wizarding world is also cruel, it is still not filled with evil like the real one.
After all, the Faun gives the girl the last opportunity – one more task: to steal her brother and bring him into the labyrinth. Pursued by Videl, she refuses to give up her brother in exchange for her happiness in the magical world. The stepfather finds her, takes the child and shoots Ophelia. But he is not able to go far either – the partisans overtake him, take the baby away and kill the captain.
Nanny Mercedes finds a dying girl, but she is not afraid. She heard the voice of her father, the king of the wizarding world. This test was a test that she passed and now, dying in the real world, she gains immortality in another, joining her family.
The film’s ending is ambiguous. Mixed emotions cause the death of the main character. But the director shows the duality of human perception. In the end, she still finds peace, albeit in death. There is a noticeable deviation into the philosophical overtones that the end of life does not mean the end of everything, and there is definitely something beyond the line that will bring us peace.