The Power of Myth is a short documentary on the Pans Labyrinth Blu-ray special features. It is basically a series of interviews with the director Guillermo del Toro.
Guillermo del Toro (The Director) has been fascinated by fairytales ever since he was a little kid.
Del Toro feels the way fairytales are sometimes classified with psychological or sociological points of view “is a little bit reductive”.
He feels that “the true power of a fairy tale” is that they are “very simple and very brutal” at the same time.
He feels that our modern culture means we shy away from simple “typological” characters. “Characters that work in the fairy tale like the big bad wolf and little red riding hood”
He also says because of our Hollywood upbringing we shy away from magic that isn’t explained. If you try to explain every piece of magic you “castrate it and destroy it”.
“Characters can be types and still have an emotional reality”
All the characters fit into fairytale types in the movie he gives these examples:
Ophelia= Little Red Riding Hood
The Captain= Big Bad Wolf
The Rebels = the woodsmen who come and rescue Little Red Riding Hood from the belly of the wolf
Del Toro gives an example of one of his favourite fairy tales “The Three Hairs of The Devil”. One of the rules of this fairy tale is “when the devil is asleep if you pluck one of his hairs he will have to answer any question you want to ask”. There is no real reason why “because that’s just what it is” he explains that “the rules generate themselves, they create a magical universe and they give you a sense of a world that is inaccessible to you but it is fully formed. That is an act of simplicity”.
“The hardest thing to pull off in art is actually simplicity”
The movie takes place around 1944 in Spain 5 years after the Spanish civil war is officially over. World War 2 is finishing and the Normandy beach landings are happening. The Spanish resistance is expecting the allies to look back.
“A fairy tale occurring at this crossroads in the history of Spain would be a fairy tale about choice, and about disobedience. About a girl that needs to disobey anything but her own conscience, her own sole.”
Del Toro believes you can take incredibly important subjects (like the Spanish Civil War) and deal with them in a parable or a fairy tale.
“Most fairytales when they finally expose their morality you can then trace it back through the tale.” This is true of Pans Labyrinth.
Fairy tales can be used to externalise internal struggles and problems.
“In fairy tales there is a tradition of prepubescent girls going through a rite of passage, which involves them blooming into womanhood or independence.”
And a struggle that we all have to go through “Becoming adults or young adults”.
The wolf and the witch represent different aspects of the world. Monsters exist in fairy tales to be a “manifestation of something we need to understand”.
One rule that is used very often in fairy tales is “the rule of three”.
“A man on a quest has to go through 3 tasks”
“A genie will grant you three wishes”
“There was a man that had three daughters, two were bad one was good”
In the movie that rule is applied throughout for example, the three doors Ophelia has to choose, she also has three tasks. The fascists are represented by three main guys. You have three main women Ophelia her mum and Mercedes. There are three fairies a green one a red one and a blue one. There are three thrones in the other world a trinity of mother father and daughter.
“The movie also talks about how things exist in the world only for those who know where to look.”
“One of key moments in the film, in terms of symbology is when the girl finds the eye of the statue. And in order to start seeing the world again the way she needs to see it she completes face of the statue by putting the eye in, and then the fairy appears. I think the girl for that moment on starts looking at the world, or is capable of looking at the world with a different view.”
The Colour and the Shape
The colour and the shape is another special feature on the Pans Pans Labyrinth Blu-ray. In it Del Toro talks about the importance of colour in the movie.
“I think that colour is incredibly important, It coveys emotion and it conveys a sense of energy, and in coveys a tale when you code it carefully.”
In the case of Pans Labyrinth, In the real universe all in greys, blues, greens “much more moody colours, cold colours”
The night is still blue
The intermediate would (in between fantasy and reality) like the pit in the centre of the labyrinth is very bright green.
The fantasy world is golden and red “the fantasy world is so personable it’s so warm, and so incredibly organic.” It’s warmer in contrast with the real world which is “very could and unfriendly in the textures and the colours and the shapes, it’s very impersonal.” “I think that helps tell the story of which world is more nurturing and embraceable and desirable.”
In the fairytale would the girl is seen in at the end of the movie Del Toro wanted to remind people of the Wizard of OZ.
“Everything in the fairytale has to have different deeper, not sexual but intermit almost biological connotations.”
The way the fairytale is incarnated is through the pregnant belly of Ophelia’s mother (the warm colours are applied in this sequence.
“It has to feel embryonic or almost uterine in the colour pallet and the shapes.” (think of the flowers and the tree Ophelia has to climb into.
We created the worlds in juxtaposition; we created a very straight world for the captain made of could colours, and the other stuff was created with warm colours and rounded forms.”
There are elements in both worlds that are important; there are keys in both worlds, Knives are important in both worlds, doors are important in both worlds.
The dining room of the pale man and the captain are designed to be exactly the same type of geography. If you juxtapose two shots of those rooms you will see that they are only different textually and in colour.
Towards the end of the movie the golden magical colour starts seeping into the real world. “ the ending for me with the captain running in the labyrinth and the rebels attacking is a fusion of the two worlds, it’s a clash of the two worlds.”