Contains spoilers! But you had fifteen years. If you haven’t seen either, maybe ask yourself what you’ve done wrong in your life.
Guillermo del Toro’s 2006 film, Pan’s Labyrinth is trending on Netflix. At the time it was hailed as a visual masterpiece with fantasy and grim reality intertwined into a dark fairy tale. Toro’s visions are magnificent, almost overwhelming, depictions of imaginary worlds, which were also seen in the Hellboy movies.
Critics have likened it to an adult version of Alice in Wonderland. Unexpectedly, however, it really seemed to me to be a re-telling of the Schwarzenegger sci-fi action flick, Total Recall, with a cute Spanish girl in the role of Douglas Quaid.
What the hell did I just read? you ask yourself. Bear with me please.
Let’s start with the obvious.
Fantastical yet Disturbing Mutants
Both have great effects and convey grave “realities.”
The Entire Dang Premise
Both movies are written intentionally to be ambiguous. Is Quaid just a schlumf in a dream-machine chair about to have a psychotic break or a deep-cover super-agent on a Martian adventure? Likewise, is Ofelia just a girl trapped in an ugly reality of war and isolation about to die or is she truly about to ascend to her true royal self in a heaven-like realm?
The genius/frustrating as hell part is that the movies gladly feed you clues in both directions. When they’re loading up experience memories for Quaid, a lab tech says, “Oh blue skies on Mars, that’s a new one,” or something to that effect. But why does the doctor break out in sweat when he’s trying to get our protagonist to take the pill which will supposedly return him to sanity? Hmm?
The Happy Ending
Both fade out into saturated light. The attainment of the ideal ending. Quaid literally gets the girl, the blue skies on Mars and defeats the bad guys. Ofelia, with much more emotion and pathos, finds her true self as a daughter of the King. In an almost Christian allegory, she makes the ultimate sacrifice and leaves her physical body and the corrupted world (the bloody Spanish Civil war is raging) and takes her seat in an eternal kingdom.