Hi VC. I enjoyed your review and think you have some excellent insights into the occult symbolism of the movie. I would add that there is an element of the myth of the minotaur with the labyrinth and the pan figure having a resemblance to the half-bull half-man monster.
Another layer of symbolism is an anti-Christian theme. The fig tree is a reference to the one that Christ curses in Matthew 21:18-22. Pan is out to destroy Christianity. The toad represents perhaps the Catholic Church and the key is the Key to the Kingdom given to Peter. The pale man is perhaps a grotesque image of Christ with the eyes representing the wounds in His hands. The dagger is to be used in a human sacrifice which represents Abraham sacrificing Isaac. It is a reverse dismantling of Christianity. In the end the fig tree which had been cursed by Jesus bears fruit which indicates that Christ’s power has been defeated. It’s a sort of apocalyptic story in which the forces of the Evil One defeat Christianity.
This is in fact in agreement with your occult interpretation of the movie. It is an anti-Christian and pro-pagan work. This is typical of Hollywood. The only thing different is that this one is done artistically. Hollywood prefers to get the most bang for the buck, so it dumbs everything down to attract the widest audience.
Thanks [In response to complimentary reply on my first comment]. I borrowed heavily from a review which interprets Ofelia as representing Spain and Vidal as representing the Fascism of Franco. In that review, the Frog represents Feudalism. See link below – “An Occult Spain Reborn from Paganism”.
No one seems to realize that the Pale Man represents Jesus. Perhaps because it is such a grotesque caricature of Christ. This monster is Christ as a mummy, as if he had never resurrected. He is sitting at a table that represents the Last Supper.
There is an ancient Roman canard that depicts Christians as cannibals which Del Toro repeats here. In its modern form, Protestants accuse Catholics of being “cannibals” because we believe in the transubstantiation of the bread and the wine into the Eucharist.
When Ofelia eats the grapes, she is partaking in the “communion”. Then, rather than Christ entering her body, the monster tries to consume her. The eyes are probably some bizarre reference to Christ healing the blind. The whole seen is a parody and mockery of Christianity and in particular of the Catholic Mass.
You can watch the Pale Man scene here:
Here’s some more stuff I realized after watching the “Pale Man” scene again.
The grape that Ofelia eats is sort of reminiscent of the apple in the Garden of Eden. In this case Christ tempts the woman and she “falls from grace” in the Devil’s (Pan’s) eyes. This ruins Pan’s plan.
One other small detail. The place where the dagger is stored is probably intended to resemble the Tabernacle where the Eucharist is stored and locked. The fact that there are 3 locked compartments seems to allude to Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice where there are 3 chests of gold, silver and lead which form a test. If the suitor chooses wisely and properly, he wins the bride. In this case Ofelia makes the right choice after some deliberation. And she obtains the dagger (a phallic symbol), but also a higher prize.
Note also that in the “mystery cults” of the time of the Romans, like the cult of Dionysius (Bacchus – god of wine), there is a stage of initiation in which a “secret” object is revealed. Inevitably this is some sort of phallus statue. Surprise! Note also the decadent nature of the feast laid out before the Pale-man/Jesus. This is in stark contrast to the simple meal of bread and wine that Christ shared with the Apostles at the Last Supper.
Just as in the Merchant of Venice, Ofelia’s higher prize is that of a spouse. The Catholic Mass is a re-enactment of the Last Supper. There is a parallel to the wedding feast at Cana where Jesus turns the water into wine. And the Church is sometimes referred to as the Bride of Christ. Here Ofelia symbolically becomes the bride of Pan.
|Jesus' first miracle - He turns water into wine at Cana wedding feast|
It would make sense that Pan intends to take Ofelia as his “spouse”. It seems that all the ingredients are in place for a Black Mass. The problem is that Ofelia has tainted herself by eating the grapes. This may have also slightly opened Ofelia’s eyes to Pan’s plan. She refuses to turn over her baby brother to him. All the same, it’s not clear what Pan has in mind at this point because his wedding coronation plans have already been spoiled. Ofelia is seen “naked” by Vidal and he kills her. By “naked”, I mean to compare Ofelia with Adam and Eve after they are cast out of the Garden. Ofelia has lost the “full” protection of Pan by her act of defiance of his will. Her two “guardian fairies” have been devoured leaving her vulnerable to “the enemy”. (My guess is that in this evil and twisted tale, Vidal represents St. Michael who is the leader of the angels in their spiritual battle against the forces of Satan.)
While Ofelia’s death is not the perfect human sacrifice that Pan was looking for, it has some effect. Instead of opening up the Gates of Hell and allowing him to conquer Heaven as Pan had hoped, he has to settle for regaining control over the Earth. This is symbolized by the flowering Fig tree as I mentioned before. So now Pan rules absolutely over two of the three kingdoms – Hell and Earth – signaling the beginning of a new occult era. He will have to wait for a future time to make his assault on Heaven.
BTW, the name Ofelia comes from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. There are some parallels here with Hamlet seeing a ghost (Pan) and seeking revenge for the death of his father. The father’s murderer has married Hamlet’s mother, and this implies that Ofelia’s father was murdered by Vidal. As in Hamlet, the audience is left questioning whether Ofelia is mad or not.
The idea that Captain Vidal represents St. Michael in Del Toro’s mythology has some stark implications – it makes this a truly apocalyptic tale.
It means that there is an allusion here to Revelation Ch. 12 which depicts the battle between St. Michael and Satan represented by a great dragon. There is a “woman clothed with the sun” that gives birth to a child. The woman is Mary and the child is the second coming of Jesus.
St. Michael (as Vidal) is depicted as a homicidal maniac, when really he is fighting against the evil demons represented by the communists.
|St. Michael vanquishing Satan|
The mandrake root is a sort of voodoo doll that represents the baby. It is fed milk mixed with blood to keep it under Pan’s control. The blood is a sort of poison and the milk is just used to entice the baby (represented by the mandrake root) to drink it.
In this story Satan (Pan) attempts to kill the baby Jesus as part of a Black Mass. But when this fails, the baby is kidnapped and we are told that it will be raised by Pan’s followers with no knowledge that it is the Christ Child. Pan’s followers are communists who are determined to destroy the Catholic Church.
This explains the importance of Ofelia to Pan. It is not really her that he is after, but her baby half-brother instead. The plan is foiled when Ofelia is eats the grapes. After that Pan’s whole plan begins to unravel – the mandrake root is destroyed; Mercedes is discovered to be a communist spy; and the full spiritual war is on.
At the end Pan still attempts to open the portal to the underworld (Gates of Hell) but the tainted Ofelia refuses to hand over the baby. He asks her if she would sacrifice her own life for the baby’s, and she says yes. His reply is translated “As you wish” but really he says “Thy will be done”. St. Michael (Vidal) shoots her in the womb and takes the baby in his arms.
You can watch the end of Pan’s Labyrinth here:
BTW, Michael means “who is like god”. He is one of the archangels. Also, Carmen [the name of Ofelia's mother] is important in Spain because of the Virgen del Carmen. This is the name commonly given in Spanish to Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
|La Virgen del Carmen|