Pan’s Labyrinth Closes in On Itself

I saw the movie Pan’s Labyrinth tonight.  Very well made and a beautiful movie, if gruesome at times.  [WARNING!  Do not read on if you do not want the end spoiled!]

This is a movie for either atheists or those who have only the book of Ecclesiastes in their Bibles.  It is a movie without hope.  It is a movie for the darkness of this world, and it left me feeling much like The Hours did.  “And I have applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven.  It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with.  I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind. … Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them!  On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them.  And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive.  But better than both is he who has not yet been and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:13-14; 4:1-3, ESV).  You think, atheist, that you have anything new to say?  The Wise Man has said it all before.

The only way out of Pan’s Labyrinth is death.  In the end, el Capitan and Ofelia end up in the same place: bleeding out upon the ground.  What’s the difference between them then?  That Ofelia led a good life and her step-father led an evil one?  What’s that worth when you’re dead and gone?  A guy behind me on the way out said he was surprised it had such a happy ending.  Happy?  I guess dreams and fairy tales before you die are what pass for happiness these days.  Perhaps it’s a satire of Christianity, but the feeling is not that Ofelia is tragic, but blessed and heroic.  In her final fantasy before she dies, Ofelia’s father says that she made the right choice by choosing to shed her blood rather than her brother’s.  Yes, her brother was saved.  For what?  Everything that Ofelia saw in her short life?  “This also is vanity and a striving after wind.”

If this were a satire of Christianity, the step-father would go on living, perpetrating evil just as he had in the first three-quarters of the movie.  No; both he and Ofelia end their lives at the wrong end of a gun.

This has been described as “a fairy tale for adults.”  But Pan’s Labyrinth is at the opposite end of the spectrum from the fairy tales of MacDonald and Tolkien.  There is a different narrative at work here.  In Pan’s Labyrinth, the story ends with death.  For MacDonald and Tolkien the Mystery goes on.

Indeed, the Narrative of which we are part goes on and on forever.  There is more than Ecclesiastes.  There is Truth beyond the vanities, and He has entered our story–rather, He has entered His own story.  If it is a fairy tale, it is of the sort that is so unbelievable as to be true.  There are rumors here of Glory and that Glory is weighty.  Give it heed or it will crush you.  Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way.  And yet, Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.  Take refuge, not in a labyrinth that dead-ends at death, but in the only Way that leads to Life.


3 thoughts on “Pan’s Labyrinth Closes in On Itself

  1. I was also puzzled by the meaning of the movie. I thought the ending was a bit anti-climactic. I didn’t see that as a dream sequence in the end, but the fulfillment of the fairy tale–that she actually was the princess, and therefore couldn’t die like a mortal. So at least, I thought, they were true to the fairy tale line throughout (complete with (semi) happy ending).

    You’re right in that it could be anti-religion, but I think it could be straight-up works righteousness too.

    It was well done, but wow there was a lot of headshots. I was surprised at the level of violence in the film since it starred a young girl.

    As a side note, I arrived slightly late at the film, and when I was walking in the door, a father and his girl (probably about 8-10) were walking out. All he said was, “It has subtitles.” which I guess he and his daughter weren’t up for. But I was just thinking, “The movie is rated ‘R’. Why would you bring an eight year old to this film?” It’s a good thing they left. Some parents these days. [shaking head in disapproval]

  2. I’m with you about parents. Sometime in 2004-5, I posted about the little kids I saw at the first Saw movie. On the other hand, if parents only saw the preview, they might think it was for children also (neglecting, of course, the rating).

    I was not distracted by the subtitles.

    You could be right about the end. It could be her soul leaving for her true home.


  3. I really had no desire to see this movie, and you have confirmed my suspicions why.

    This is an example of pure junk philosophy. Presented in a pretty package, but still junk on the inside.

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