Audio Review by James Harleman (contains spoilers)
â€œIs there real immortality and real magic? I believe there isâ€¦ I believe they are a spiritual reality that is as tangible and as real as the material worldâ€¦ Only those that KNOW where to look – only those that have the right GAZE – can see it.â€
â€“ 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 Guillermoâ€™s beautiful story, using many of the artists own words.
To Director Guillermo Del Toro, the film represents â€œViolence and fantasy â€“ how the â€œrealâ€ material world scoffs at the girlâ€™s interest in the fantasy world.” There are differing ideas about the filmâ€™s religious influences. Del Toro himself has said that he considers Panâ€™s Labyrinth â€œa truly profane film, a laymanâ€™s riff on Catholic dogmaâ€, but that his friend Alejandro GonzÃ¡lez IÃ±Ã¡rritu described it as â€œa truly Catholic filmâ€. Del Toroâ€™s explanation is â€œonce a Catholic, always a Catholicâ€.
What does this story intimate about â€œrealityâ€, 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? ORâ€¦ 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 â€œrealityâ€ the true fantasy?
Del Toro: â€œThat moment of putting away our toys and giving up our childhood is a profound, melancholy moment.â€
â€œLet 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.â€ â€“ Jesus (Luke ch.18)