Friday, January 15, 2010

Pans Labyrinth

I rented Pans Labyrinth. I had heard nothing about it before I watched it. This movie is heart wrenching. It portrays two worlds--a violent dirty, selfish, joyless real world and an imaginary world, seen as the only escape open to a child born into Nazi held territory and war.

The real world had its villains and heroes. There was no joy to any of their lives however. The child accompanied her pregnant mother, who had recently married a German officer, to a German forest outpost. Here, life was harsh and violent. The officer's self-hatred and obedient allegiance to a vicious cause, war, led to suffering for all who entered his tainted sphere.

The girl sees fairies who lead her into a labyrinth. At its end, she climbs down into a hole and meets another under world character, a faen, who tells her she is really a princess and, to open the portal, inside which await her father and kingdom, she must complete three tasks.

She fails at the second task and is told by an emotional angry faen, that the portal has closed for good and she will die a mortal in this world.

The world is crumbling about her. Her mother dies giving birth to her brother. A kitchen worker and the doctor are helping the resistance. They are found out. The doctor is shot dead. The woman escapes after stabbing the German commander, about to torture her, and runs through the woods for her life.

The Germans pursue her on horseback. At the top of the hill, in a clearing, they circle her, on their horses, and are about to kill her when they are shot dead by the resistance army.

The Resistance fighters then descend upon the German outpost itself.

At this time, the girl is given another chance to enter through the portal and claim her place as a princess. All she must do is steal her newborn brother. She is discovered, as she takes him, by her father, the German outpost commander, who is not her biological father, only the babies.

The German commander chases the girl, as she runs, clutching the baby, and as the Resistance fighting goes on at the outpost. Into the labyrinth the girl runs, and to the edge of the deep hole.

The faen is there waitng. This has been her second chance, to bring the baby to him. He pulls out a sword and says he must sacrifice innocent blood now, to open the portal, "just a prick" he promises, demanding the baby. The girl refuses and will not give up her brother to the faen and his sword.

The German commander stumbles into the clearing and demands the baby. The girl gives him the baby and then, he shoots her.

She falls bleeding to the edge of the deep hole. A bloody hand drops out across the hole, dripping her own blood into its infinite reaches.

The German turns and stumbles out of the Labyrinth with his baby, his son, to find himself walking between two lines of Resistance soldiers. He hands over his son, to the kitchen worker he was going to torture, and tells her to tell his son what time he died. She spits out, "He will never know your name," as her brother shoots the German commander through the head.

The woman and the fighters run to the edge of the hole and comfort the girl as she dies. But as the life ebbs from her in one world, she is seeing herself descend into a kingdom of light, where her father and mother, on thrones, in a grand well lighted hall, welcome her, as a princess. The faen is there, and steps forward to say she passed the final test, by refusing to sacrifice innocent blood and instead offering her own.

As she dies in the world of men, the kitchen worker hums a lullaby.

It is clear the second world is to be viewed in the movie as one the child creates to sooth herself. Her longing to see her own father again and for love, is strong. Even in her last moments of life, she created a justification for handing her brother back to his monstrous father.

How could children be asked to suffer war?

As she dies on the edge of labyrinth, her joy is great as she walks the great hall towards dual thrones, occupied by both her mother, who died in childbirth days earlier, and her father, who died in fighting long before. No longer will she suffer in the dark bloody world above.


  1. OK-I had to stop reading your synopsis because now I need to rent this movie. I was just chosen to chaperon my 13 year old's field trip to the Holocaust Museum in a couple weeks and I have been researching books and movies to began educating her sensitive soul. MY NEW BOSS is the most wonderful ex teacher who is also Jewish and has recommended quite a few for me. Thanks Jody!


  2. Schindler's List is a good one.

    And there's a movie someone told me about, don't know its name, something about a child from one side of a fence, a Nazi's boy, befriends a boy through a fence, who lives in a Jewish concentration camp. One day, the Nazi's son crawls through to join his friend on the inside of the camp and is somehow gassed along with the others.

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  4. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is the movie you're thinking of. It was an extremely good movie, too!
    Pan's Labyrinth is one of my favorite favorite movies. It is such an incredible story, with beautiful imagery to match it. It's one of the movies I'm able to watch an unending number of times.

  5. Pans Labyrinth is beautifully done.

    I thought the doctor exhibited particular courage with his statement about blind obedience, to the German commanders, just before being shot.

  6. He did not seem surprised when shot in the back as he strode away, after mercifully ending the life of the stuttering resistance soldier the Germans were torturing. He seemed hopeful though in his expression, that maybe the German commander would have an epiphany, and realize things, and stop just killing people, that he would see what he was doing was wrong and destroying everything including himself. But the commander was a machine anymore and not a human with a warm heart. So the doctor was shot in the back. The movie questions why we create such a world and tolerate it, too. I heard it was protested by some group for some reason, which is why I rented it. I thought if someone doesn't want it seen, it must raise questions and be a decent movie.

  7. John and I watched that movie on t.v. about a year or so was very intriguing.....I kept hoping the girl would "win", i.e., be able to live in peace with her baby brother, but it wasn't meant to be...Hooray for the kitchen worker, who won't let the baby know his father's name. That child will have a fresh start on life at least.

    The imaginary world built by the a world known to many survivors of horrendous child abuse/molestation, etc. The childhood traumas can cause DID, split personalities, etc. The movie showed it in a way that would be known to a child back then.

  8. Meant to add - Schindler's List is a great movie - I had seen it when it first aired on t.v. and then last year got the dvd for my son to watch...he was very moved by the story. Oskar Schindler is the only member of the nazi party to be given the title "righteous gentile" by the jewish people.