Last Updated 17 Aug 2022

Pan’s Labyrinth Setting

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Setting is one of the vital elements of fiction. A work can only be fully approached if it is first based on its setting, which guides the development of the work. For “Pan’s labyrinth”, an outstanding cinema work rich in symbols, details and meaning, it is even more essential for us to take the underlying context into serious consideration The external setting of this work consisted of 3 element: time, place and social environment. In 2006, the movie was filmed in a Scots Pine forest situated in the Guadarrama mountain range, Central Spain by the talented Mexican director Guillermo del Toro.

The idea for Pan's Labyrinth came from Guillermo del Toro's notebooks, which he says are filled with "doodles, ideas, drawings and plot bits" which had been kept for twenty years. There are a lot of social factors affecting Del Toro. Firstly, his mind and work are characterised by a strong connection to fairy tales and horror, also he described his political position as "a little too liberal”. Del Toro got the idea of the mythological faun (Pan) from childhood experiences with "lucid dreaming": after he waked up, a faun would gradually step out from behind the grandfather's clock.

The faun became a mysterious, semi-suspicious relic who gave both the impression of trustworthiness and many signs that warn someone to never confide in him at all. Moreover, by exploring the figure of the god Pan and the symbol of the labyrinth, he tried to “mix those compelling factors and play with them”. Secondly, “Pan's Labyrinth” continues a tide of fine movies of Del Toro, illustrating a period after Francisco Franco has come into power. He pointed out that the villains in most of his films are united by the common attribute of authoritarianism.

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Most people make the villains ugly and nasty but Del Toro realizes that one of the dangers of fascism is that it's very attractive. To him, perfection actually lies in fully loving the defect. Killing somebody can be because of he broke a law, or broke an idea: patriotism, liberty, democracy... In short, the idea behind the act is valued more than the act itself. The Internal Setting of “Pan’s labyrinth” is related to the 2 parallel storylines: Ofelia's fantasy world against the colorless right angles of the fascist world. For the reality – the facist world, it takes place around

May–June 1944, five years after the Spanish Civil War, when Spain was under the authoritarian dictatorship of Francisco Franco. The world war II is about to end. The story happens in a mill on the border of Spain. When the war is raging across the world, women are subordinate to men. The Falangists is winning over the rebels and the rebels have to hide in the forest. It is really a time of suspicion and paranoia: rebel supporters are brutally killed. For the fantasy world, it is seen that the story is closely connected to an old and abandoned labyrinth and the Underworld Kingdom existing a long time ago.

Ofelia, the main character, is a young girl who loves fairy tales. She travels with her pregnant mother Carmen to meet Captain Vidal, her new brutal, facism and cold-blood stepfather and father of Carmen's unborn child. The story is then gradually revealed within the (internal) setting, making viewers immersing completely in appalling scenes with its deep meaning implied. ? A work’s setting has important role as it is the world in which the characters appear, act and expose their emotions. It can be used to evoke a mood or atmosphere that will prepare the reader for what is to come in.

In many cases, setting contributes to the overall meaning of a story or affects the characters. It would be a shortcoming if we analyzed a literature work without interpreting its setting and meaning behind, especially for “Pan’s labyrinth”. In the realistic story, the decisive colors drawing the view of story is old-newspaper yellow and dark grey, which implies the atmosphere of sadness and lurking danger. Not much of Spain outside the mill is referred in the story but the war between political groups here can represent the overall country’s condition.

The influence of military is strong and almost encroaching on the natural order of Spain. However, the fascist seem not to belong to this place. They wear steely blue gray uniform, which is unnatural in the forest, while the rebels wear earthy browns connecting to soul of mountain. The fascists' headquarters is lying in a small mill, and surrounded by trees and forest, the rebels' habitat. It states the implication: despite the power of military, the fascists are still the small pocket of dry land in the midst of rising communism, one day they will face to the failure.

To further the point on the mill's lack of femininity, it is an indication to us audience that this is not right place for Ofelia. The box shape of it exists only for function, efficiency and work and there is no room to growth and discovery. That this place is not for a child reflects the fact fascism does not fit in Spain. In the parallel story, the fantasy world appears in front of audiences with devastated views. It loses the princess Moanna like Spain is seeking freedom. The Labyrinth is the only place that Ofelia can fully realize her imagination. Moreover, it also reflects reality out there.

The structure of Labyrinth is the same as the circulation of destiny. Ofelia comes to the dream world, reunites with the parents, while the rebel defeats the fascist after so much sacrifice, blood and tears. “Pan’s labyrinth” (internal) setting partly reveals a sorrowful and tragic fairytale. As previously mentioned, the story happened when Spain was under the authoritarian dictatorship of Francisco Franco, in a mill surrounded by mountain and forest and rainy frequently. The film’s darkness overshadows the light, therefore most viewers can imagine the sorrow from that dreary framework without seeing any minutes of the film.

Unlike in other fairy tales where the writers omit events or elements that are deemed too harsh, in Pan’s labyrinth they do not overestimate the violent conflict between the rebel and German army which is leaded by a brutal person Capital Vidal; or the loneliness of the girl between two world, reality and fantasy. To some extent, both of them can reveal a tragic ending. Besides the internal setting, the external setting also discloses some values of the film but in artistic aspect. The author, Guillermo del Toro, has strong obsession of fairy tale and horror.

That why he can create details, characters especially fairy ones which contain many symbolic values and compel the audiences to thinking a lot. As a consequence, each time we watch the film, we can always find something new. If we ask why a writer chooses to include certain details in a work, then we are likely to make connections that relate the details to some larger purpose, such as the story's meaning. By analyzing clearly the setting of ''Pan's Labyrinth'', viewers, as well as critics, can draw lessons from what Del Toro conveyed

Pan’s Labyrinth Setting essay

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