Audio Review by James Harleman (contains spoilers)
“Is there real immortality and real magic? I believe there is… I believe they are a spiritual reality that is as tangible and as real as the material world… Only those that KNOW where to look – only those that have the right GAZE – can see it.”
– Guillermo Del Toro
The film has a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and it received a 98% rating at Metacritic, making it Metacritic’s fourth highest rated movie of all time. At the Cannes Film Festival release, it received a standing ovation. Clearly, it made an impression. After viewing the film at a Cinemagogue event with a large audience, I unpacked the underlying themes in Guillermo’s beautiful story, using many of the artists own words.
To Director Guillermo Del Toro, the film represents “Violence and fantasy – how the “real” material world scoffs at the girl’s interest in the fantasy world.” There are differing ideas about the film’s religious influences. Del Toro himself has said that he considers Pan’s Labyrinth “a truly profane film, a layman’s riff on Catholic dogma”, but that his friend Alejandro González Iñárritu described it as “a truly Catholic film”. Del Toro’s explanation is “once a Catholic, always a Catholic”.
What does this story intimate about “reality”, our belief in what lies beyond the material world? Does Ofelia invent a fantasy world to escape the horrible realities of life that surround her in 1944 after the Spanish Civil War? OR… are her eyes open to a world that is deeper and wider, beyond her understanding but ultimately offering, hope, escape, and immortality? More importantly, what does this say about us? Is our assumption of the material world as “reality” the true fantasy?
Del Toro: “That moment of putting away our toys and giving up our childhood is a profound, melancholy moment.”
“Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” – Jesus (Luke ch.18)