Our work this week with Pan's Labyrinth took our class on a different path than usual. Most notably, Pan's Labyrinth was not specifically a fairytale. Instead, it was a historical piece with a fantasy storyline infused in it. The tale took place in the early 1940's during Franco-era Spain. The real action of the story was propelled by the lingering tensions of the Spanish Civil War. Against this timepiece backdrop, however, a little girl also finds adventure in a paralleling magical world through her imagination.
Although traditional fairytales can sometimes be interpreted to fit a political view, the historical setting of the film made the social commentary directly relevant. In the film, the fascist regime of Franco is overtly villianized, while the Socialist guerilla fighters are glorified. The story makes repetitive references as well to the association of the "left" with goodness. The heroine has the mark of the princess on her left side, she offers her left hand, she completes a task opening the left box, etc. The film also can serve as a social argument for critical, independent and moral thinking. The good characters of the storyline, such as the Doctor, prove that sometimes it is necessary to disobey authority and do the right thing. Dr. Deveny suggested the director of the movie may have intended this as a more modern commentary on America in the aftermath of 9/11. He speculated the director may have been urging American's to think on a more independent, critical and moral way about their response to the tragedies of that day.
In addition to the more political nature of the film, the story broke from traditional fairytales in its portrayal of the female lead. In almost all of the fairytales we have worked with so far, the heroines have been extremely passive. Any female of action is generally villianized. In this film, however, Ophelia is uniquely active. She very assertively completes her three tasks on her own, with little aid from others. She also is willing to disobey authority and defy her father. Her personality is hardly that of the usual heroine.
Despite the unorthodox link to fairytales, during our discussions with Dr. Deveny we were able to identify nearly all of Propp's Functions within the storyline. Interestingly, many of the functions surfaced in the movie twice- once in the real world storyline and once in the fantasy storyline.