As we count down to the release of The Labyrinth of the Faun, what better way to celebrate than with a few magical tidbits about the original film?
Changing one word in the title could have changed everything.
Talk about lost in translation! The title of the film in Spanish is El Laberinto del Fauno, or, The Faun’s Labyrinth, but in the English translation, the title was changed to Pan’s Labyrinth. A faun is a mythological half-man, half-goat creature (think Mr. Tumnus from The Chronicles of Narnia) with horns and legs, and is nature neutral to humans. Neither fully good or fully bad, fauns are often seen as symbolic of and/or the guardians of nature itself. Pan, on the other hand, is a specific Greek god who, like a faun, has the legs of a goat. Pan’s nature, however, typically trends towards debauchery and trouble-making that wouldn’t fit into Ofelia’s story. The title change has caused a fair amount of confusion about whether the Faun’s identity, but del Toro’s been clear in interviews that the Faun isn’t Pan, but his own, unique magical creature.
The film was almost…even darker.
Instead of the Ofelia we know today, earlier drafts of Pan’s Labyrinth depicted a pregnant woman who’s husband worked for the mansion owner. In this story, the woman fell in love with the Faun, making a great sacrifice—but del Toro eventually decided it was more interesting to explore the magical realism of the story through a young girl’s eyes.
The Pale Man represents the church and fascism.
Del Toro, who’s sometimes referred to himself as a ‘lapses Catholic,’ has spoken in interviews about the Catholic Church’s history of complicity with fascism in the Spanish Civil War; the Pale Man is symbolic of that dangerous combination of church and fascist state. While there’s an abundant feast around him, the Pale Man eats only children; he draws parallels between this perversity and the needless harms done to people—children in particular—by powers like the church.
Both Ofelia and her mother believe a kind of fantasy.
In the film, Ofelia believes in the magic she sees, and the possibility of fairytales—but we know the magic is ultimately true in part because of the rebirth symbolism. Ofelia’s mother says she doesn’t believe in fairytales; she believes in the Republic. Del Toro draws a connection between the believing in magic, and the fantasies of organized religion and politics,
The film references other great artists.
There are nods to Goya and Pink Floyd in Pan’s Labyrinth, and both artist & band clearly inspired del Toro. In the fantasy montage where Ofelia opens a book and the red fans out (like the faun’s horns? as if foreshadowing the miscarriage?), the sequence is scored specifically towards the tone of Pink Floyd’s “Is There Anybody Out There?” Later on, the visual sequence when the Pale Man devours a fairy is reminiscent of Francisco Goya’s painting, Saturn Devouring His Son.