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Life for ofelia of pan's labyrinth

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 3459 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Introduction (2,500)

In the year of 2006 we saw two girls fall down a rabbit hole of mystery, wonder and danger. Two female protagonists engaged with the fantasy worlds of Terry Gilliam's Tideland (2006) and Guillermo Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth (2006). For Jeliza Rose in Tideland, life was hard and lonely and so she began to slip into a shape-shifting and somewhat surreal version of her difficult reality. Life for Ofelia of Pan's Labyrinth, is the violent and unforgiving environment of fascist Spain­­­­­, where she befriends a faun and learns of a fantastical realm where she is princess. These girls are faced with tough and unsympathetic realities and a fall down the rabbit hole somewhat rescues them. Next in 2007, The Bridge to Terabithia (2007) presents another child protagonist whose engagement with an alternate reality has shocking and shattering effects.

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It is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the .....

This is part of a recent and unmistakeable revival of interest in fantasy; ‘in the last few years, fantasy in general has roared back into a prominent place in popular culture'[1] with the emergence of screen adaptations of fantasy novels. The pivotal year for the resurgence in fantasy was 2001 where the first instalment of J.K. Rowlings Harry potter with Chris Colombus's Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone (2001) and the first part of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings with Peter Jacksons The Fellowship of the Ring(2001) gained box office success a subsequent ‘global hunger for fantasy'[2]has been revealed. David butler contemplates an apparant golden age of fantasy[3] due to the recent commodifcation of the fantastic. Howvere there have been despite a general lack of study and theorising of the fantastic there has been some abundance in analysis since this revival yet there seems to be a gap in the field in terms of the focus of the child portagonist in relation to the contentoius and debeateable problem of escapism. This paper contenplates the how each of theses films engage with fantasy and wthat the implications of escapism are. A considertaion within film's diegesis concerning the child protagonists relation to escapism and alternate realities is made

What is interesting about each of the studied films is all concern pubescent child protagonists who journey to alternate worlds. The child hero figure is profound, timeless and powerful and this immense popularity has many implications for the audience. by constructing a cinematic viewpoint from a child's perspective, filmmakers make assumptions about the nature of childhood. The ‘childhood as a point of view' is rendered by filmmakers where the child, or children, feature, often at the centre of the narrative, while at the same time, signifcanlty acting as the narrator. These are films that use a child to take us on a journey of discovery.

ESCAPISM ARGUMENT?-that these dark fantasy films present inncoence against adult vice and that subsequently ADULTS FEEL UNCOMFOTABLE AND REACT NEGATIVELY.

The child's superior wisdom, an assumed vantage point of innocence and ‘greater access to fantasy, leaves the adults in the audience to see their own absurdity and harshness through the eyes of the child',[4] this is a prevalent feeling in Tideland and Pan's Labyrinth as the sexual promiscuity of Dell and the violence and corruptedness of Captain Vidal is set against the fragile youthfulness of the Ofelia and Jeliza-Rose.

ESCAPISM ARGUMENT!!!!Through the eyes of the child, we engage with the wonderous and the strange, which becomes a ‘reservoir of strength' for the child.

The notion that the child as an innocent, pure and untouched figure is one that is enchanting to audiences and filmmakers alike.

The young feisty female protagonists in these films have developed and are a far cry from the passive and submissive, one dimensional characters of Disney. This is significant in the development of the child protagonist and alternate world fairytale as Disney dominated that fairytale on film niche. The innovative animation of Disney was indeed extraordinary, yet in Jack Zipes view Disney actually promoted the ‘domestication of the imagination'.[5] Walt Disney's fairytale films offered an ‘eternal return of the same', with stereotypical characters and a significant emphasis on thematic structure aswell as an encouragement of ‘non-reflective reviewing'.[6] Zipes makes the argument that Disney produces emotionally comforting, unchallenging material.

In contrast to Disney's reproduction of fairytale film, Guillermo Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth, Terry Gilliam's tideland and Gabor Csupo's The Bridge to Terabithia's combines; a rendering of the fairytale narrative (in the case of Pans Labyrinth), various styles and themes to create complex and challenging films that cross generic boundaries. Tough, resilient girls whose harsh realities are thrust upon the audience in an un comforting manner are the feature of these latest fantasy films. This paper considers young female protagonists who have to encounter and deal with dramatic and fundamental changes in their lives. These are related to the transformation of girls into women; emergence of puberty and adult sexuality. Central to this project is a focus on psycho sexual and social transformations.

The child hero figure is a powerful and profound one that has a timeless essence. And this familiar hope of the child hero is visible at the centre of each of these films.

The popularisation and common use of the child figure has its roots in Victorian society, an era in which fairytales were institutionalised in the West. At the end of the nineteenth century fairytales were being written and published in abundance after a period of being directed at the adult elite classes they began to be created for children and the family. Industrialization had radically transformed society and effects of alienation and repression were felt.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865)[7] written in Britain by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson under the pen name of Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was deliberately created with a total absence of didacticism[8] and is considered one of the wildest and imaginative of Fairy Tales in vcitorian society. The highly successful novel tells the story of Alice who takes down a trip down a rabbit hole to a Wonderland of pun, symbolism and nonsense. Carroll's Alice books (nine in total) were part of a movement which began to expeiement with Tzvetan Todorov's notion of ‘non-signification', which is now an established mode of the fantastic. Epistempological doubt was the feature of much nineteenth centuray literature, themes of madness, hallucinations, double personalities and general splitting and divisions of subjects made up the gothic, marvellous and fantastic literature.

Carroll's Wonderland presents a the challenging of self. Identity is unstable, Alice shrinks and grows in size, and the Cheshire cat disappears to a grin creating ‘the plasticity of a dream'[9].

Books which have been adaptetd inot successful films and television series ushc as Alices Advanetures In Wonderland, The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz and The Chronicles Of Narnia series written over between mid nineteenth century and the mid-twentieth century all feature adventourous young protagonists with either have absent parents or are orphans, who all embark on their own journeys of discovery . the poratgonist are at a prebuscent age and are sexual and asexual at the same time, the journeys they take involve gaining maturity a consciousness that is closer to that of an adult toward the end.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz written in 1900 by American novelist Frank. L Baum features another one of the most recognised young female protagonists young orphaned Dorothy Gale. The novel was immensely popular on release and several film adaptations have been created since. MGM's 1939 technicolor screen adaptation, The Wizard ofOz directed by Victor Flemming is the most widely acknowledged version and remains a staple part of American (and Western) popular culture. After the success of the films the idea of Dorothy Glae and the land of Oz grew to become a ####commodity and gained a cultural following, (such as the charcters and icongraohy from the film appeared in the Christmas 2009 Harrods window display) . The sepia colours of the opening and ending of Flemmings film emohasuzes the bleakness and dreariness thta Dorothy percievs the farm where she lives to be, aswell as reflecting the feelings of disenchantment that people felt due to the hardship of the Deppression in America at the time, people cold relate to Dorothy's dissatisfaction in her surroundings, they also longed for ‘somewhere over the rainbow'. After realising that ‘there is no place like home' Dorothy returns to Kansas, and a common feature of fairytakles and children's literature, the return-to-reality closure is provided. Dorothy, disenchanted and with only her dog ToTo as company suddenly hurricane suddenly seizes the farm and Dorothy lands in Oz, filmed in vivid technicoulur emphasizing the spectacularness and wonder of her fantasy world. Dorothy lives with her inattentive aunt and uncle, unloving mothers or substitute mothers are a frequent character in fairytales, which leaves the protagonist feeling unloved. If we accept the common psychoanalytic reading that Oz represents Dorothy's mind then it can be read that the characters are exaggerated parts of herself; the downhearted and self-critical scarecrow may reflect Dorothy's low self esteem, the rigid tin man who cannot feel love be a sign of Dorothy's emotional repression and the cowardly lion could indicate her lack of moral assurance.[10] however, in the film, it is made clear that her three companions were actually the farmhands all along. The characters journey to the wizard to try and obtain lacking virtues; a brain signifying intelligence, a heart meaning love and courage indicating self belief and confidence. The fact that we realise they each had the qualities they were searching for means, in the case of the book, Dorothy does also. Baum provides a clear message ‘that we have within us the qualities we seek.'[11] Jones asserts that this message is of ‘considerable reassurance to children in the process of maturation'[12] the alternate worlds provide opportunities to learn about the human condition and for self discovery, for the reader-audience aswell as for the protagonist. The return to Kansas which acts as closure, therefore rejects fantasy by sentamentalizing it[13] and ignoring its subversive implications. Dorothy's wish to return to Kansas is fulfilled and Aunt Em's joy at having Dorothy return emphasizes Dprothy's conscious contentment as shebecomes a maternal and affectionate mother figure. Has Kansas changed and has Dorothy transformed? Dorothy is transported to the splendorous and green world of Oz out of the dreariness of Kansaa, yet she wishes for return and so home is never far away. Dorothy cannot leave Oz until she completes tasks, which include killing witches, thus she a fantasy world provides immense powers, she must then find the wizard. The fact taht she can only return to Knasa after learning of the enchantments and dangers of Oz alludes to the fact that fantasy is about confronting as oppose ot evading reality.

C. S. Lewis presented

Gary Westfahl observes the long-established concern with the romantic child;

‘western tradition has long honoured children as being purer and naturally better than adults because they have not yet been corrupted by worldly ways; they lie in William Blake's blessed world of innocence, not his wicked world of experience'[14]

The image of the child as being closer to God than the adult, is set against the adult who is morally unclean due to the corruption of wicked experience appeared in much religious ritual and ancient myth. Children traditionally said to represent innocence[15]. It is interesting to note that the word ‘innocence' is cognate with noxious and derives from Latin nocere ‘to harm' (Stein) innocence then is the condition of being unharmed,[16] which is where the fascination with the idea of the child arose. The opposite of innocence then is experience, which gives us the title of William Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience. Blake sets up powerful binaries of childhood innocence and adults as experienced thus spiritually harmed, this literature has had a powerful influence on and reflected Victorian society's attitudes. The passage assumes a world in which any experience is dangerous to the soul.

Marina Warner, a writer and mythographer has contributed significantly to the theory of film which has a relatively short lived history. She brings an understanding of modes of narration and codes of representation which distinguish the medium as ones that are prefigured by an extensive history of cultural production, greatly influencing the medium.

With a strong affinity to writer Angela Carter, Warner takes a feminist approach to the study of fairytale and fairytale on film. Her central concern is reclaiming the cinematic use of the fairytale narrative and making a consideration of its representation to female experience, particularly to rites of passage. By doing this, Warner also considers the child figure in films which are not necessarily made for children but have a child as a narrator. She observes the appeal of the child as a central figure comes from ‘the prelasparian notion of innocence and the implication that children, by virtue of not being bound by adult rationality, have greater access to the world of imagination and fantasy.'[17] Thus the child protagonist can engage wilfully with fantastical realms which adults regard as impossible.

The fantasy genre has a close affinity with the ‘Wonder Tale' defined by some critics, or the ‘Folk Fairy Tale' by others. For all allegorists of a Neo-Platonist perspective, fairytales were scriptures of the spirit, displaying messages of universal love and death.[18] Paganism and psychoanalytic studies, such as Sigmund Freud's notion of the uncanny, have defended the fantasy as something that is fundamental to the human being. In contrast to the above universalising interpretations, the contemporary situation reveals the emergence of a socio-historical school which considers fairytales and fantasy as a direct impression of reality. They are embedded in popular culture, yet are subject to change and transformation reflecting new developments. The fairytale and fantasy are subsequently a ‘tool for thought, a multicoloured skein of images with which to think about the real, both reiterating and shaping the real in restructured narratives, reassemble images'.[19] Therefore a consideration needs to be madeevaut the contemporary situation of fantasy and fairytale in film.

This paper explores what's different between these films. Although Gilliam introduced Tideland with the prediction that some people will love it and some people will hate it, he may not have been prepared for the profusion of heated, disgusted and outraged reactions which followed the films relase, including people walking out of the cinema. With 157 reviews posted on the internet movie database, tideland ‘was (rightly) savaged by critics and ignored by most audiences,'[20]“ some kind of "Alice in Wonderland" with psychic tinge”[21] “the worst movie i have ever seen” “UNPLEASANT”, “perverse, ..”, “Unwatchable.” “Nauseating.” ‘Mr. Gilliam descends into curdled silliness. It might be said that his imagination knows no boundaries; it might be good if he found some. A. O. Scott from The New York Times “Tideland” is rated R. It has drug use, gruesome deaths and extremely icky sexual implications'.[22]Owen Gleiberman from Entertainment Weekly writes that Tideland an "F", calling it "gruesomely awful". [23]

Despite overall positive critical reception, there was much negative reactions tp pan's Labyrinth, also revealed people recated badly to fairytales that werwe scary, ‘the senseless murder of an innocent child—make "Pan's Labyrinth" irredeemable in my eyes.'[24] And another review argued ‘I don't believe for a second that this is any kind of fairy tale.'[25]more angry reviewers did nto agree with the fairytale genre labelling, ‘Only if we as adults have decomposed our standards so that torture and suffering constitute fairy tales.'[26] People

This paper also makes a consideration of escapism's dishonoured status. It attempts to make a contribution to the overdue reconsideration of fantasy literature and film.

The overall structure of the study takes the form of five chapters, including this introductory

[1] Susan Napier makes this observation in 2005at the beginning of a discussion regarding Japanese anime, David Butler (2009) Fantasy Cinema: Impossible Worlds, Wallflower Press, p6

[2] Susan Napier in David Butler fantasy cinema: impossible Worlds (2009)

[3] David Butler discusses and summarises ‘the problem of fantasy' and escapism in his recently published and insightful overview of key themes and debates in fantasy cinema, Fantasy Cinema: Impossible Worlds(2009) London: Wallflower Press ,p5.

[4] Marina Warner, Through A Child's Eyes, Internal Bfi Seminar, 12 February 1992, P44

[5]Jack Zipes (1997) Happily Ever After: fairy tales, children and the culture industry, New York; London: Routledge, p92.

[6] Jack Zipes (1994) fairytale as myth, myth as fairytale, Lexington : University Press of Kentucky,pp94-95

[7] Patrick Brantlinger, William B Thesing (2002) A companion to the Victorian Novel. Wiley-Blackwell. p360.

[8] Barbara Smith Chalou (2007) Struwwelpeter: humor or horror? : 160 years later. Lexington books. p75.

[9] Manlove, C, N. (2003) From Alice to Harry Potter Children's Fantasy in England. Christchurch, N.Z: Cybereditions. p20.

[10] ibid.

[11] Wolstenholme (2000) The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. pxxxiv.

[12] Jones (2002) The Fairy Tale. p95.

[13] Sarah Gilead, Magic abjured: closure in chidlresn fantasy fiction, PMLA, Vol. 106, No. 2 (Mar., 1991), Modern Language Association pp. 277-293, p279

[14] px

[15] Eric S. Rabkin ‘Infant Joys: The Pleasures of Disempowerment in Fantasy and Science Fiction'

(J.C.Cooper An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Traditional Symbols, London: Thames and Hudson, 1978)p16

[16] ibid

[17] Marina warner. Cinema and realms of enchantment, P6

[18] Marina warner, The Uses Of Enchantment, lecture at the NFT (7 February 1992) P16

[19] Marina Warner, The Uses Of Enchantment, lecture at the NFT (7 February 1992)p17

[20] Alex Billington, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0410764/news?year=2008

[21] HurtGenerator(Wed Dec 20 2006 11:39:07 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0410764/board/nest/56980592?d=61756820&p=6#61756820

[22] ^ "Tideland: A Girl Endures a No-Man's Land by Dwelling in the Make-Believe," A. O. Scott, The New York Times, October 13, 2006

[23] Owen Gleiberman

[24] fmcchris, ‘Devoid of grace, wit, and soul', 6 June 2007, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0457430/usercomments?filter=hate

[25] Paulk-20, ‘Harmful at best', 1 June 2007, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0457430/usercomments?filter=hate

[26] Robert, ‘i waited so long to be rewarded with dissapointment', 15 may 2007, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0457430/usercomments?filter=hate


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