Pan's Labyrinth is a great movie. If you haven't seen it, don't read any further as this post contains SPOILERS.
Right. So Brian wrote a little post on movies he saw and mentioned how he loved Pan's Labyrinth. I agree with him, but (like him) have also noticed that many people were disturbed by the movie, or just didn't like it. I am here to propose a defense of the movie, to the best of my abilities.
First of all, I'm not going to talk about the acting, cinematography, directing, and all that normal stuff. It was all really really great and everyone seems to agree on that point.
The first thing I'm going to talk about is maybe the most important character in the movie: The Faun.
I'm not going to go into the mythology of fauns or Pan, but you must have an understanding of that mythology to understand this character. When Ofelia first meets the faun, she asks him who he is. His response is important:
"Me? I've had so many names. Old names that only the wind and the trees can pronounce. I am the mountain, the forest and the earth. I am... I am a faun."
The faun represents nature. Not good or evil. The faun is used to present tasks to Ofelia, not to be a friend or redemptive figure. It is important to remember that the faun must remain ambiguous. If he were purely good, it would be too easy for Ofelia to trust him. Her actions would have no meaning and she wouldn't have to think for herself. The same is true if he were purely evil. The same would be true in this world, if things were unquestionably good or evil. Our actions would have no meaning. Make sense? And the faun is freaking awesome.
The first scene I want to point out is Ofelia's second task with the Pale Man.
This scene is important because it's the first time Ofelia disobeys the faun's instructions. The important thing to note, is that she disobeys twice: first, when choosing the door and then when eating the grapes. When she chooses the door, she ends up being right. When she eats the fruit, she brings about death. So, even though she disobeys both times, her disobedience doesn't bring the same outcome. It is important for Ofelia to learn to trust herself, regardless of the results. And the Pale Man is freaking awesome. (This info can be found in the director's commentary, which I highly recommend)
An interesting emphasis on that theme can be found in the doctor's last words:
"But captain, to obey - just like that - for obedience's sake... without questioning... That's something only people like you do."
The next thing that is often discussed is whether or not this world of Ofelia's is real or just imaginary.
I always want to believe it is real, in every fantasy story I read (e.g. Narnia) and I was happy to hear that the director agreed with me. Some people argue that every scene where the fantasy world interacts with reality can be explained through reality. For instance, the mandrake root that she uses can be seen in the kitchen. Or the fairy really is just an insect. However, there is no explanation for how she got into the captain's quarters in order to steal the baby. Not only that, but the captain finds and crushes the chalk. So, that scene is a pretty strong argument for the reality of the fantasy world.
Along with that (and this will be my last point since this is getting so long), this fantasy world obviously helps Ofelia cope with the reality around her. The same thing happens to the audience; as we watch more and more graphic violence surrounding the true evil in this movie (Captain Vidal), we beg for more scenes from the fantasy world. Many people argue that religion is just our way of coping with and explaining our reality. This fairy tale was Ofelia's religion.
In the end of the movie, she reaches her heaven. She trusts herself to know what is right- even though it risks losing everything she has dreamed and believed in. Many religious people do things for the sake of their religion, without questioning whether or not it is a good thing. I think that's the point of this movie (or at least an interesting topic that arises as a result). Ofelia is willing to die, because she knows it's the right thing to do. In the end, she finds that this is what was necessary; not blind obedience.
I could say a lot more about this movie, but I'm running out time and this post is long enough. Perhaps more will come out of the comments. I didn't have time to even touch on the non-fantasy aspects of the movie. Anyways, please leave a comment if you agree/disagree with anything, or if you have any thing else you want to talk about from the movie. I'm interested to hear more.