Pan's Labyrinth Question (spoiler)

There are a couple of threads on this movie already, from a few months back, but I didn’t see this mentioned.

Ofilia’s three tasks centered around a key, a blade, and a baby, respectively. Mercedes ended up with tasks involving the same objects. She needed to get a key to the resistance so they could get into the storage room. She needed her hidden blade to escape from captivity and wound the Captain. And she took on the task of raising the baby at the very end.

So there’s a parallelism here, but I can draw no further significance from it. Any ideas?


(Also, there’s only one scene I found hard to explain in non-magical terms: The one where Ofelia hits a dead end in the Labyrinth, but one of the stone walls opens up for her. The Captain follows close behind, hits the same dead end and–no Ofelia, no opening in the wall. Still, I continue to think it is a mistake to read the story as involving “real magic.”)

Hijack, sorry. I can’t let the “it’s not real magic” comment slide.

She drew an opening with the chalk that got her underneath the Captain’s shaving/booze table in his room, bypassing his locked door. The magic was real.

Or… She’s sneaky.

Why do you think his door was locked at that time?

There is, though, the puzzle how she would have gotten out of her room, since earlier the Captain had ordered her door to be locked. So I’ll admit two puzzles.


The magic was definitely real - the mandrake had a definite and direct effect on her mother’s health.

The parallels between the tasks are used as a standard storytelling device, and not as anything that significantly reflects on the plot. It was just a resonance between the two characters’ stories.

What would make the magic definitely real would be something that could not be explained otherwise. Ofelia’s escape from her room, and her apparent escape from a dead end in the labyrinth, are both difficult to explain, so I admit them as difficulties for the reading that says it’s all in her head. But the mandrake thing does not present the same kind of difficulty. In the case of the mandrake root, nothing has happened that requires explanation. If the kid put mandrakes in milk under ten sick mothers’ beds and they all got well, then got sick again when the roots were removed, then we’d have something that needs explaining. But a single incident shouldn’t trouble a skeptical reading of the film.


Well, if we “cheat” and listen to the director, he’s said that the magic is real - he intended the physical reality of the chalk to communicate this, and is a little surprised that we all think it’s so ambiguous - it’s in the commentary on the DVD, I believe.

But yes, I do think there is a very deliberate parallel between Ofelia and Mercedes’ challenges. Back when I saw it and it was fresh in my mind, I wrote something about it in another thread, speculating that Ofelia and Mercedes were essentially, poetically, the same character going through the same Quest manifesting in different forms - Mercedes’ realistic war-time quest being allegorized in Ofelia’s fantastic quest. But I think it’s simply a literary mirror technique, nothing more literal or sinister than that. (But I do think you’re as clever as I am for noticing it. :wink: )

So you’ve got three instances of something happening that are presented as being magical, with other possible explanations being coincidence at best, but you’re still skeptical. With no snarkiness at all, what would it take to make you think the magic was real?

Are you actually trying to apply the scientific method to a movie? A fictional movie? I can’t imagine going to the cinema with you would be much fun. :stuck_out_tongue:

I agree with Frylock. The mother may have recovered with or without the mandrake; she was, after all, being treated by a doctor. And I had assumed that Ofelia sneaked out of the Captain’s room, not that she had used magic. At the end of the movie I understood all the ‘magic’ to be fantasy, in her imagination – which made the very end of the movie very poignant. But the moving maze wall (and the director’s commentary, I guess) make me rethink my interpretation.

I kinda liked the fact that it was a bit ambiguous.

I went in from the beginning thinking the magic was real, and it all made sense, the plot that is, and the ending.

Good movie, but a little too violent in a couple parts.



Good question. It would have to be something inexplicable by other means. And to be clear, the only thing I find really inexplicable is the moving wall in the labyrinth, and I think there are good reasons to think of this (including the Captain’s approach toward the dead end) as portraying something that happened in the girl’s imagination rather than something that “really happened.”

Well, I’m sounding more dogmatic about this than I really am. I actually think the movie is nicely ambiguous. But I’m convinced the “no real magic” reading is a viable one–I think it has to be, for the sake of the movie’s theme.

The director’s comment about the chalk makes no sense. How is the existence of a piece of chalk proof of a magical realm?