catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 6, Num 9 :: 2007.05.04 — 2007.05.18


Get me through another day

As Rene Char noted, “Imagination consists in expelling from reality…and then using the magic and subversive powers of desire to bring them back in the form of one entirely satisfying presence.” Many of us get that familiar but essentially necessary charge from a good escape. Guillermo del Toro (Devil’s Backbone) sheds forth a fantasy of imaginative wonder that recalls the nostalgic thrill of childhood innocence throbbing for worlds unknown, in Pan’s Labyrinth.

We begin our fable in the ominous mountains of Spain in 1944, during a civil-war of resistance against the fascist regime of Franco. We encounter a young Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), an astute young girl on a walkabout with her pregnant mother Carmen (Ariadna Gil). The two are en route to an old mill in the forest where they are to rendezvous with Captain Vidal (Sergi Lopez), a fascist outpost commander and Ofelia’s new stepfather. Neighbor to such is an ancient stone labyrinth into which a fairy and mantis-like insect entice our young heroine.  In the spiraling abyss of darkness, she meets Pan (Doug Jones), a faun who smells “of earth”. Pan believes the girl to be special and offers Ofelia a series of tasks to seek out the light of this nebulous mystery.

Pan’s Labyrinth is a captivating tale, as though one were cobra to enchanter. It offers us characters whose names “only the wind and the trees can pronounce” and whose palms can see and pursue, mountaintop roses of immortality, and plants that “dream of being human”. Our tale weaves fantasy and reality together into variegated tapestry, “an elaborate origami creation”.

Labyrinth is “as gruesome and brutal as it is enchanting and spellbinding” and as critic Jim Emerson notes, a “narrative maze, with multiple stories that branch and eddy, like…blood spilling over a craggy boulder.” As most enchanting fantasy supplies, Aesop noted most aptly, “beware lest you lose the substance by grasping at the shadow”. With incomparable direction and script by del Toro, music by Javier Navarrette, and cinematography by Guillermo Navarro, Labyrinth is a world alongside the iconic lore of C.S. Lewis and Lewis Carroll—truly a world where “innocence has a power evil cannot imagine.”

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