Re: [mythsoc] Pan's Labyrinth
- Partial spoilers herein.
I've been away for the past week-plus, though I did manage to check in long
enough to read the discussion of Pan's Labyrinth.
Why didn't this film bother me as it did Pat and Carl? Certainly the
little girl does suffer greatly, and I thought her secondary-world
apotheosis at the end was sufficiently artificial as to suggest a
deliberate attempt by the film-makers to make the audience wonder whether
it was in any sense "real" at all.
But the fact that innocent, even innocent young, characters suffer is not
in and of itself enough to condemn a film. The suffering of people is an
essential ingredient in fiction.
I accept, however, if a particular form of suffering pushes your "squick"
button and makes it impossible for you to enjoy the film, so long as you
don't label me callous for not reacting the same way. The spot in Pan's
Labyrinth where I had to wince and turn away was the scene where the doctor
starts to amputate the man's leg.
However, suffering per se was not Pat's charge against the film. He
thought it approached the level of "torture porn." Maybe that's the result
of his "squick" button, because I don't see it. Lingering lovingly on the
little girl in pain and torture ... no, it didn't do that. Inventing
completely gratuitous and unnecessary plot twists for the sole purpose of
having her suffer ... no, it didn't do that either.
However, I have a question about the film's plot I'd like to put to the
collective minds of the list.
One of the girl's tasks involves passing by the banquet at which the
eyeless man is sitting motionless. Although Pan had told her specifically
not to eat anything, at possible peril of her life, she takes two grapes,
and all heck breaks loose.
The question is, why did she eat the grapes?
One person with whom I discussed this pointed out that this was just after
she'd been sent to bed without supper. I'd forgotten, when watching the
banquet scene, that this had immediately preceded it. In any case, the
girl didn't look ravenous. She looked more as if she was taking the grapes
out of curiosity.
But when Pan berates her afterwards for taking the grapes, her only
response is to say, "I thought nothing would happen." That seems to me to
contradict and disable any suggestion that she did take the grapes out of
curiosity. Did she conclude that something bad would happen, and decided
to make it happen in order to spice up an otherwise boring and simple task?
Someone else suggested that possibility to me, but that doesn't seem credible.
- In the cool light of day the morning after viewing this, Jo and I
discovered that, while the movie was certainly wonderfully done, it was
a bit off-putting for the reasons Pat and Carl noted below-though, as
noted before, the girl's fate was something I would much rather not have
known in advance.
As Jo said, "It's fine that good finally overcame evil, but did there
have to be so much evil?" The ending, where the girl's death amounts to
the saving of her brother and her final glimpse of a beatific heavenly
vision with a God the Father (as well as David Crosby) lookalike seems
to be an obvious Christian parallel.
In reviewing this thread, especially the business with the grapes, it
seems fitting to cite Chesterton's "The Ethics Of Elfland" and his
Doctrine of Conditional Joy, where all good and evil hang on a random
choice to do or not to do a simple deed: Eve's apple, Pandora's box.
Tolkien mentions this in "On Fairy Stories." It certainly looms in the
amplification of the power of the Ring from -The Hobbit- to -The Lord of
the Rings-, where what had been a handy little talisman for Bilbo
becomes life or death for Frodo. That's why Jackson's plot change from
Faramir refusing to take the Ring from Frodo to the muddled digression
to Osgiliath is one of the more egregious offenses in the screenplay.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com] On Behalf
Of Carl F. Hostetter
Sent: Wednesday, August 22, 2007 8:48 AM
Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Pan's Labyrinth
On Aug 22, 2007, at 8:22 AM, Patrick H. Wynne wrote:
> watching a helpless adolescent girl (probably delusional)
> being physically and psychologically abused for two hours, then shot
> dead, is NOT my idea of a good time!
> Am I the only one who absolutely loathed this film?
No, you are not.
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