Good evening, dear reader! Somewhat departing from our normal modus operandi, we spent two classes on a single story that was seemingly original rather than the latest offspring of centuries of retellings of a tale (not to mention we actually managed to finish a movie). This movie was “El Laberinto del Fauno” and the professor leading the lecture was Dr. Deveny, our resident expert on all things Spanish.
This lecture took us in a different direction than we normally take in class, probably possible because we spent so much time on one tale (not saying that this is better or worse than our usual method, just different). Rather than the Freudian vs. Jungian semantics that we get out of Bettelheim and von Franz, we systematically went through the tale looking at Vladimir Propp’s 31 functions. Together, we managed to find almost all of them, even though they were out of order compared to other fairy tales. For example, function 7 (deceit of victim by villain- where the captain tricks Mercedes into revealing that she has an extra key) comes after function 21 (hero is pursued- where Ofelia is chased by the pale man). Other than the lack of order, the characters in the functions don’t always apply to the same character in the film. For example, both Mercedes and Ofelia fit the role of hero, depending on the function. We also looked into fairy tale motifs that presented themselves throughout the film. We found the inclusion of the special numbers 3 and 7 in the number of trials and rings at the center of the labyrinth, respectively. Naturally, we could not entirely escape sexual undertones, such as the fig tree’s symbolizing a womb and Ofelia’s fear of childbirth, which she is forced to face with her nurturing the mandrake root. Finally, we also have the setting of the film in 1940’s Spain. The political conflict between the Left and Right is seen throughout with the battles against the rebel guerillas. Also, the food and general supply shortage seen in the film is accurate. According to Dr. Deveny, even the brutal scene wherein the Captain bashes a hunter’s face in with a beer bottle is based on a real event. For me, however, this seems to be a separate storyline. The only real place where the fairy tale and the political history intertwine is Captain Vidal, arguably the villain in both, depending on your political perspective. I felt that this movie and the way we approached it added to the sense of the course being an SIS, as it was yet another perspective in looking at fairy tales.
One last thing that was really Dr. Deveny’s emphasis, but one that I agree with, is that the main point of the movie is to be an independent thinker. This is embodied in both the doctor who goes against the captain (costing him his life) and in Ofelia (a departure from the fairytale tradition of the passive, obedient female). This lesson resonated with me, but maybe that is just the young college student in me.
My next blog post will be the last that is related to this class. It remains to be seen whether or not I will continue to make use of it afterwards. Until then, then.