Saturday, July 18, 2009

Fantastical Underworld

Fantasy and science fiction films are fertile breeding grounds for the imaginings of how the 'Underworld' appears and how humans make use of the underground in, typically, near and distant futures.

My jaw dropped several times in seeing Pan's Labyrinth for the first time. Not only is the film absolutely gorgeous and disturbing at once, it is compellingly dense with mythological allusions. Some of Ofelia's (the main character) key moments- both harrowing and exhilirating, occur in the underworld. Her first challenge of finding a key occurs in the earthy root system of a tree. Her second challenge brings her to the banquet which she must not touch (and possibly before one of the creepiest creatures ever depicted on film). Like Persephone, who having been taken into the realm of Hades, was permitted to leave under the condition that she ate nothing while down there, Ofelia is under similar instructions. Both fail, Persephone with the fated pomegranate seeds and Ofelia with the allure (and consumption) of the grapes. Yet Ofelia's fate is not quite sealed yet and her escape is necessary to bring her full circle to the space of her true belonging.

In the end though, Ofelia's efforts, and apparent rebellion, result in a tragic and quick departure from Earth, as she knew it. They also culminate in her arrival home. She is reunited with those who she descended from and the depiction of this underworld "kingdom" is truly breathtaking.

I for one would like to request a Part II. Ofelia's Beautiful Dark Kingdom.