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Pan’s Labyrinth

July 15, 2007

I just saw the multiple Academy award-winning Pan’s Labyrinth, one of the many films put off due to parental priorities. It was worth the wait. The effects, design, and imaginative creativity are stunning.

But the storyline is more impressive. In a blending of the very real horrors of the Spanish Civil War and the mythology of fantasy fairy tale, Guillermo del Toro reveals the power of a counter-story. The central character, Ofelia, is caught between fact and fantasy. Her father replaced by a fascist army captain, her mother suffering in pregnancy, and war all around her. She retreats to the “safety” of her fairy tale world, a world in which she is a lost princess, approached by a faun who gives her three challenges, which must be passed in order for her to be reunited with her father and king of of the underworld.

Again and again, Ofelia turns to the challenges and promises of her fairy tale world for a sense of purpose and hope. If she can just pass the tests, she will live forever with her father. She will reign in a land of peace, without pain or terror. The hope of union with her father and a place among royalty enable her to persevere under the harshist of real-world suffering.

And so it is with the counter-story of the gospel of Christ. A story that facilitates, not escape but engagement. Like Ofelia, we are challenged to believe in the world to come, a kingdom in which we will reign with our father, a world without pain and filled with peace. A belief that motivates personal sacrifice, compassion, and love. The counter-story of the gospel offers us true power, hope and acceptance from a loving father in a never-ending, righteous kingdom, which is precisely why we can follow in Ofelia’s sacrificial footsteps. Unlike Ofelia’s fairly tale, however, our tale is no myth.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 16, 2007 6:57 am

    sounds good … what do you mean by, “it was one of the many films put off due to parental priorities?”

  2. July 16, 2007 7:09 am

    just that the priority of parenting takes the place of endless film watching…

  3. August 21, 2007 8:59 am

    Just watched it the other night.

    The strength of Ofelia’s faerie world is not merely that it reveals the horror of living during the Spanish civil war and with a cruel step-father. The strength is that her ‘counter-story’ draws us into her experience. I haven’t noticed all of the parallels but each of her ‘challenges’ corresponded to or were shaped by her ‘real world.’ Especially her going to bed without supper, and then having to face the test of not-eating from the banquet of the Pale-Man. In fact, the sumptuous feast was more alluring than the Pale-Man was terrifying.

    The world of faerie usually unmasks the familiar to show us the evil and treachery, the good and the bravery, of the familiar. It’s interesting that this faerie story actually gives us two dark worlds.

    Good movie. Good fantasy. I’m so glad the Gospel Story is the best myth of all, the one all other myths try try to emulate…because it’s true!

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