Pan’s Labyrinth

Hey all! Today’s post will be all about Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, or rather, El Laberinto del Fauno, as the dialogue in this movie is entirely Spanish. Fear not, folks– it offers very accurate and helpful English subtitles. I initially thought the language barrier would be a hard one to jump for this movie, but I was mistaken. I enjoyed it just as much as I enjoy films with English dialogue. I actually believe the Spanish language adds to the overall “effect” of the film.

So, you may find yourself asking, “Emily-Kate, why is this Spanish film being marketed to Americans?” This is a legitimate question, especially considering the difference in language and culture. The answer to this question, however, lies in YOUR question itself: It is marketed to Americans because Americans are ignorant of a very important area in Spanish history.

In order to understand implications presented by the movie, one must understand what was happening in Spain during what we all know to be the “World War II” era. While we were off dealing with the second world war, Spain was collapsing internally during what was called the “Franco-Spain,” and was under the rule of Francisco Franco. Fascism rose and was unlike any other form of fascism occurring across the world. The film was marketed to Americans in order that we be exposed to this side of history because, until I wrote a research paper on this topic, I had no idea this ever happened and there is something inherently wrong with that concept. Luckily for us viewers, Guillermo delivered a beautiful, heartbreaking movie that accurately depicts the time period.

PLOT: Set in post-Civil War Spain, the plot follows young Ofelia, who loves to read books and to use her imagination, as she begins her life with a new stepfather–Captain Vidal. Captain Vidal is a different breed of evil, as he is a fascist leader who only cares about himself, his military career, and the unborn child that is being carried by Ofelia’s mother. Ofelia is treated poorly from the moment she arrives at Captain Vidal’s, but she soon becomes distracted by the discovery that she is actually an underworld princess. I won’t say anymore because I don’t want to spoil it, but you all should really check this movie out– if nothing else, then for the ending.

pale mean


SYMBOLISM: The clever use of symbolism is stellar in this movie. A couple notable symbols I would like to highlight are:


Ofelia means “Help.” This is significant because Ofelia’s role in the plot is to both help her sick mother and help those in the underworld kingdom.

Vidal means “Life.” This incorporates a tone of irony in that a character that causes death and sadness has a name that signifies life.

Mercedes means “Mercies.” I cannot tell you without spoiling the movie the role that Mercedes plays, but she becomes very important at the end of the movie and her character is very merciful.


The number three plays an integral role in the plot. It appears several times:

  • There are three main characters, which can be likened to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
  • Ofelia is given three tasks to complete in order to save the Labyrinth
  • Ofelia’s mother is in the third trimester of her pregnancy


Each time Ofelia’s mother scolds her for reading fairytales, she experiences intense nausea. This implies that those who criticize others for reading for pleasure deserve to be punished.

The other important symbol present throughout the film is an obsession with time. Every character is put on some sort of clock. Ofelia must complete three tasks within three days. Ofelia’s mother is in the final days of her pregnancy. Captain Vidal carries a pocket watch around and looks at it obsessively. The symbolism in this lies within the idea that all time runs out; it waits for no one, no matter the circumstance. At the end of the film, we see Captain Vidal’s watch cracked, implying that time is no longer a luxury he can afford.


I highly recommend that you all see this movie. Now, Is this a feel-good movie that I would suggest viewing at a sleepover? Hell no. This is a movie that will make you think and make you realize that so much goes on in this world without our knowing. This film would not be the masterpiece that it is without the brilliant mind of Guillermo del Toro behind it. He truly is a master of cinema and to miss this film of his would be cheating yourself a thought-provoking, significant movie with a Shyamalan-like twist at the end.  

Here’s a link to the trailer: Pan’s Labyrinth

Hope everyone has a great week!

Sources for this post: 

Campbell, Mike. “Meaning, Origin and History of the Name Vidal.” Behind the Name. Mike Campbell. Web. 21 Feb. 2016.

Griffin, Matthew J. This is a fairy-tale looking cover of Pan’s Labyrinth. Digital image. Dunked, 2016. Web. 3 Apr. 2016

Morris, Scot. “Three.” Skeptic 17.2 (2012): 10-12. Academic Search Complete. Web. 21 Feb. 2016.

Pan’s Labyrinth. Dir. Guillermo Del Toro. Prod. Guillermo Del Toro. By Guillermo Del Toro. Perf. Sergi López, Maribel Verdú, and Ivana Baquero. Picturehouse, 2006.

Spector, Barry. “Sacrifice Of The Children In Pan’s Labyrinth.” Jung Journal: Culture & Psyche3.3 (2009): 81-86. Academic Search Complete. Web. 1 Mar. 2016.

Still frame image of the Pale Man from Pan’s Labyrinth. Digital Stack Exchange Inc. Web. 3 Apr. 2016.

Walsh, Colin. “Moving Cinema.” : Fairytales, Fascism, and Understanding Symbolism in Pan’s Labyrinth. Blogger, 30 Aug. 2011. Web. 16 Feb. 2016.


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