“The labyrinth is a very, very powerful sign,”
explained del Toro. “It’s a primordial, almost iconic symbol. It can mean so
many things, culturally, depending on where you do it. But the main thing for me
is that, unlike a maze, a labyrinth is actually a constant transit of finding,
not getting lost. It’s about finding, not losing, your way...
...I can ascribe two concrete meanings of the labyrinth in the movie. One is
the transit of the girl towards her own center, and towards her own, inside
reality, which is real. I think that Western cultures make a difference about
inner and outer reality, with one having more weight than the other...The other transit I can say is the transit that Spain goes
through, from a princess that forgot who she was and where she came from, to a
generation that will never know the name of the fascist. And, the other one is
the Captain being dropped in his own historical labyrinth. Those are things I
put in. But then, as I said, the labyrinth is something else. Each culture will
ascribe a different weight to it.”
Guillermo del Toro on Fairy Tales and Inspiration: ...Even
when I was a kid, funny enough, I used to be able to find those fairy tales that
felt preachy and pro-establishment, and I hated them. I hated the ones that were
about, ‘Don’t go out at night.’ There are fairy tales that are created to
instill fear in children, and there are fairy tales that are created to instill
hope and magic in children. I like those. I like the anarchic ones. I like the
crazy ones. And, I think that all of them have a huge quotient of
darkness because the one thing that alchemy understands, and fairy tale lore understands, is that you need the vile matter for magic to flourish. You need lead to turn it into gold. You need the two things for the process. So when people sanitize fairy tales and homogenize them, they become completely uninteresting for me."
Other Miyazaki films such as PRINCESS MONONOKE are grounded in what could be cultural memory or traditional fairy tale, but is in fact original 'myth' created for the film.
Both SPIRITED AWAY and PAN'S LABYRINTH are picaresque adventures unified by 'original' -mythic structure. Both of these are far better films than CORALINE. The latter film is a collection of technical marvels with no underlying mythic theme to unify them. The characters have no real resonance in either of the film's two worlds.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
A Succesful Fantasy Director Speaks Out
PAN'S LABYRINTH was my favorite film of 2006. Like CORALINE and SPIRITED AWAY, it is about a young girl who rescues (or attempts to rescue) a family member from a sinister fantasy world. But the first two films have more resonance than CORALINE because they contain symbolism that works according to the laws of their particular universes. While their 'myths' are in fact original, they are easily understood by the viewer. The Miyazaki film's themes and symbols make reference to contemporary environmental consciousness and also to Japanese mythology. This gives it an interesting design flavour, particularly in the bathhouse sequences. PAN'S LABYRINTH's universe is firmly grounded in European fairy tales and symbolism. The labyrinth of the title literally affects the main characters' lives, as this wonderful about.com interview with Del Toro proves: