Director: Guillermo del Toro
Cast: Ariadna Gil, Sergi Lopez, Ivana Baquero, Maribel Verdu, Doug Jones
Duration: 119 min.
This is a story that unfolds at two levels. At a real one (in Franco’s Spain where his generals face the resistance of the extreme left rebels) and at a symbolic level, the inner world of the young protagonist. Reality becomes entangled with fantasy and sometimes the symbolic “reality” seems more real. The centerpiece of both storylines is a struggle; the real-world struggle for power and the inner struggle for the salvation of the soul.
The battlefield of those two struggles is similar. In the real world it’s a forest while in the inner world it is a labyrinth. Both the forest, which is often seen in fairytales, and the labyrinth, which is most common in myths, represents the multitude of life. Everyone can choose many paths and might get lost; but when the right path is chosen this will lead to a confrontation with his inner shadows, his Minotaur or his own wolf…
In such a forest, every human lives his life and gain experiences. The young girl, that is the protagonist, is the soul at the symbolic level. There is the teaching of the “captured soul” according to the Ancient Esoteric Tradition, in which the soul must pass several tests to gain freedom and return to its real home; that of the spirit. So it is with this story. The young girl is a princess that has lost her kingdom and she must pass a series of tests to win it back.
A Faun plays an important part in the story. In Greek mythology he appears as a follower of the mystical god, Dionysus. In Northern and Central Europe we find him as God of Nature, named Ceres or Cernunos, the horned god who is frightening and beautiful at the same time, like nature itself. He is the one that leads the soul, since he is the most ancient and he tests but also helps her; so long as the soul can trust him without losing its ability for Distinction.
She is given three tasks.
In the first, she must get a key from the frog that guards the tree of life. The frog symbolizes rebirth. He is an amphibian that lives simultaneously in two worlds, earth and water. In ancient Egypt frogs where depicted as the goddess Heket, protector of birth. So the first test begins with rebirth. That is why she must shed her beautiful clothes, become dirty and surpass her coquetry. We see her covered in mud, which is essentially earth and water; these are the two elements of the body, the vessel that the soul occupies in the physical world.
In the second task the Faun asks her to fetch a knife from a certain place. There she will find a table, full of food, that she must not eat because it is guarded by a powerful Being that is not human. But she disobeys the Faun’s warning and isn’t able to fetch the knife. She is like Persephone who eats the fruit of the Underworld and is tied to it. Because of Persephone’s actions we have nature’s Summer-Winter cycle and the goddess seems to die and be reborn every spring. But her death is felt only by those that tread the earth; for her it is not, but rather a reign at another level. For her there is no end, and so it is for the young protagonist. It appears that she has failed, but in reality she didn’t bring the knife to the world of the living. She has chosen life and not death. She does disobey; but that disobedience is within the boundaries of her actions. She is not weak-minded to the one that guides her. She wants to try, to taste and to understand, even if the price is falling from paradise…
The third task for her is to win back her kingdom by sacrificing her young sibling. The labyrinth must taste innocent blood to open its gates. This is the hardest test. The girl forfeits her paradise since the price is to cover her hands in blood. Love and Compassion have triumphed inside. But it is this very sacrifice that will finally force the door open. For her to save her soul, she must ultimately overcome even the selfishness that made her want to save her soul in the first place.
The movie ends with the girl in front of three thrones and above them shines a golden sun. The soul has returned to its home and stands near the three elements of the spirit: Will, Love and Intellect. She has fulfilled these tasks by using the three elements from which she originated…