But of course, nothing is merely a word. Not the word “father” And especially not when Vidal, the stepfather in question, can be patriarchal but is never fatherly. Words have to fit.
Although many things are, admittedly, beyond words… sumptuously Gothic fairytales, say--or intensely re-created histories of fascism. Pan’s Labyrinth
There is nothing simple in Pan’s Labyrinth. Even the beautifully pure and vulnerable face of its protagonist, Ofelia, verges on pubescence; is clued to a forthcoming awareness of imminently sexual fauns; is limned with a presciently adolescent disobedience and distrust of authority. And everything is serious. In fact--and this is extraordinarily atypical of an experience I count enjoyable--there wasn’t *one* humorous moment in it. Which is perhaps why despite the duality of the resolution, I reacted, with horror and dissatisfaction, purely to the ending that seemed more authentic to reality, and discounted the other.
Pan’s Labyrinth interweaves images and texts from a variety of childhood images and texts--The legend of the cunning Pan and J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan and C.S. Lewis; Ofelia’s strangely Alice in Wonderland-ish headband, pinafore and frock, and her Princess and the Goblin ensembles of nightgown and robe. The cumulativeness of this collective familiarity has the effect of nostalgically speaking to our personal childhoods. And so the loss of the child, prophetically named Ofelia (Ophelia), hurts. It recalls our loss of individual childhood, of security we once enjoyed within the fabric of family and certainty, of our inadequacy in the face of inexorable events controlled by mammoth historical fates. Or inscrutable fauns.