Pan's Labyrinth

I just finished watching the movie Pan’s Labyrinth. Although this film is very well made, visually stunning, and creatively crafted, I’m a bit troubled about some of the implications the director makes in regards to the Catholic church. There is a scene where a priest (or bishop) is attending a banquet that a captain of Franco’s facist government is holding. The captain is portrayed as a sadistic sociopath but is clearly meant to be representative of the Franco regime. The captain refers to the rebels as vermin and expresses his desire to wipe them all out - the priest (and others at the table) raises his glass in agreement. I perused the directors commentary of the film after I watched it and the director, Guillermo del Toro, clearly expresses his dislike for organized religion and by implication the Catholic church. Has anyone else watched this film and came away with the same feeling that the director’s own prejudices against the church and religion (and I suppose the Franco era) were deliberate? I don’t know alot of detail about the relationship between Franco’s government and the Catholic church but I do know that he tried to cultivate one on purpose to bolster his image with the people. Is the Church in Spain at all complicit in some of the horrors that took place during the Spanish civil war or is del Toro’s manipulating this film in order to put forth his agenda of what happened really what’s going on here? I’d be curious to know if anyone else has an opinion or knowledge of this time period and particularly the Church’s role.

Franco was Catholic and much of his reign reflects that. When he came into power, he voided civil marriages; those affected had to remarry in the Church. He made Catholic social mores absolute law. Some priests probably saw that at least as a good thing, whether or not they approved of his regime; others were coopted, coerced, or corrupted. That specifically is what del Toro is objecting to: all it takes for evil to win is for good men to fall or do nothing.

Consider the role of Cardinal Richilieu in the Three Musketeers books and movies. Dumas is not, as I recall, anti-Catholic specifically; he’s anti-Richilieu. It’s much the same in Pan’s Labyrinth: del Toro is not impugning the Church as a whole, merely the clergy who collaborated with Franco’s government.

del Toro was raised strictly Catholic, and from what I hear it was not a good experience for him (abusive) and soured him on organized religion. But he’s neither stupid nor small-minded.

Also Pan’s Labyrinth is a great movie. I need to pick up the DVD :slight_smile:

I have not seen Pan’s Labyrinth, but in answer to your question about the complicity of the Catholic Church in the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War, I would say the following:

  1. you might want to read a history of the period, since the situation was complex and is often misrepresented in contemporary media.

  2. The war began when the Republican government (elected by a slim majority) initiated strongly socialist and anti-clerical policies. Supporters of the regime began to murder priests and nuns, and destroy Church property, in addition to other acts of violence. The excesses of the government in power provoked a rebellion, which under Franco’s leadership was ultimately successful.

  3. Atrocities were committed on both sides, but the Civil War was a Spanish tragedy, which should not be used as an argument against Catholicism in general or Spanish Catholicism in particular. If anything, it should be seen as a black mark against socialism/communism – one among many!

  4. There was no reason for the Catholic Church to support the Republican (read Communist) side of the war, since the Republicans set out to destroy the Church and murdered roughly 1/3 of Spain’s priests. Are Jews blamed for not supporting Nazis?

We watched it last night and it really is a stunning movie. I also was taken aback by the Catholic at dinner. But I admit to not knowing the history of Spain, so I, like probably most people who are ignorant of Spain’s history, will probably view it as an anti-Catholic/anti-religion slam.

Well fact of the matter is that if you didn’t see the movie then it would be hard to suggest whether it was or wasn’t used as an argument against Catholicism in any correct way.

What I will say is that generally the movie was stunning in many ways. Not for the weak hearted. Violent. But beautifully put together and filmed.

I would not suggest it is overtly anti-Catholic, but the dinner scene was notable for its anti Catholic bias.

Well fact of the matter is that if you didn’t see the movie then it would be hard to suggest whether it was or wasn’t used as an argument against Catholicism in any correct way.

I did not mean to imply anything about P’s L, which I have not seen. I was responding to the question of the original poster about the actual responsibility of the Catholic Church for the atrocities of the Civil War. I understood that part of the post, perhaps wrongly, to be about history rather than P’s L.

In general, I believe that people who blame catholicism for atrocities on Franco’s side – and not all of his supporters were RC – should hold secular ideologies equally to account for atrocities committed by the Republicans. For some reason, that connection is seldom made.

I watched it and it is a wonderful movie.

The priest’s presence startled me too, but there are good and bad people in all belief systems. It did not strike me as unlikely that there could have been some corrupt priests during that time period.

Overall this is a movie worth watching people. The priest is only at the table lifting his glass. Except for that scene, he doesn’t appear again.

Don’t let your young kids watch the movie. It isn’t a children’s movie. The scene with the monster with the removable eyes was scary to me and I like horror movies! But most adults will enjoy this.

Sorry, I misunderstood your point.

My husband and I agreed that the “eye” monster was one of the creepiest things we’ve ever seen in a movie, and we’ve seen a lot of creepy movies.

Great movie, though. I guess I didn’t see the anti-Catholicism that others seem to have picked up. Yes, I was also startled by the priest at the dinner table, but he didn’t have much of a role.

I have no idea where some people are getting this. The priest at dinner is quite obviously a collaborator in Franco’s regime; if not, he wouldn’t have been invited to the captain’s dinner. He’s a bad priest, not a representative of a bad religion.

I agree with you. He played a very small part anyway.

The bible was read during the mother’s funeral. If the director had wanted to be anitreligion he could have used this scene to push his agenda much better then the dinner table. He didn’t though.

I just looked up the director. I had no idea that he directed HellBoy!

Are you all certain that Guillermo del Toro is antireligion?. Hell boy was certainly positive toward a Catholic character in the movie.

I don’t know if he is anitreligious. Here is an interview where he discusses religion including this:

G: You identify yourself as a lapsed Catholic and I thought it was curious that your previous Spanish language films like Cronos and Devil’s Backbone are steeped in Catholic lore and iconography, but Pan’s Labyrinth takes on pagan, fairy lore. Why did you feel a need to make this shift?
GDT: It’s curious you say that, because I felt that way, but then I showed the film to Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu and he said: “**** you, you’re more Catholic than ever.” I said “Why?!” and he said “Redemption through blood, redemption through sacrifice, she goes to the other world and there’s a father in a throne and golden light,” and I said “I never thought about it that way.”
But I guess he has a point. I think: once a Catholic, always a Catholic. I think Hitchcock was a Catholic, and he was capable of imagining the most heinous murders. Buñuel was a lapsed Catholic – actually he was an atheist. He declared himself “an atheist, thank God.” And I think that that cosmology of it stays with you because that’s the way you articulate the world. When I was shooting Mimic, I was going through such a hell that I started reading about Taoism and I loved reading about it and the idea of just being but I didn’t adopt that cosmology or point of view. I’m still a lapsed Catholic - that likes Taoism. It’s an imprint.

G: Catholicism is a culture and a faith and faith is something we lean on in times of duress. Ofelia’s story is one of loss and discovery, but I identified with it in large part because I saw it as an allegory for faith.
GDT: It is. It’s very simple. In the world, I believe in the absolute power of faith and will but I think people tend to marry miracles to outcome. You know, people say it’s a miracle if the water turns into wine, but the real miracle is not a material one. I believe that you can fabricate magical things and magical occurrences in your life but they don’t have to be shockingly apparent. Ofelia’s faith saves her. She will live forever, whereas the Captain won’t. The fascists die that night and Ofelia is reborn, and that’s the difference. I can be shot and dying, I’m alive if I choose not to care. I’m immortal if I don’t care. It’s like: I’m dying, I’m going to the super market, I’m washing my teeth, they’re all equally important…in my life.

And on the preist at the table:

MG: Is the omission of visible Catholic detail just a coincidence? Or was the church’s position and sympathies with the Francoists during the civil war something you considered as you planned out the symbolic strategy of the film?

Del Toro: When I was researching the movie The Devil’s Backbone, I found the absolutely horrifying—not only complicity—but participation of the Church in the entire fascist movement in Spain. The words that the priest speaks at the table in Pan’s Labyrinth are taken verbatim from a speech a priest used to give to the Republican prisoners in a fascist concentration camp. He would come to give them communion and he would say before he left, “Remember, my sons, you should confess what you know because God doesn’t care what happens to your bodies; he already saved your souls.” This is taken verbatim from that speech. The Pale Man represents the Church for me, y’know? [He] represents fascism and the Church eating the children when they have a perversely abundant banquet in front of them. There is almost a hunger to eat innocence. A hunger to eat purity. I didn’t want to avoid it, but I did not seek Catholic imagery. Nevertheless, I understand that redemption by blood and the rebirth by sacrifice is a Catholic conceit. So I accept it without any problems because I think that sexuality and religion come from your imprint in an early age. Whatever arouses your spirit or arouses your body at an early age, that’s what is going to arouse it the rest of your life. Everything will be subordinate to that. It’s a personal choice and it’s a personal experience. I don’t shame myself about being a lapsed Catholic and so if that cosmology appears in my movies, I’m fine with it.

The director’s comment about the Church eating innocents and their purity speaks volumes about how he really views Catholicism. That’s very ironic because Catholicism in it’s authentic form goes out of it’s way to boldly endorse purity not take it away…perhaps he was referring to the abuse scandals when he made that comment but obviously the scandals do not represent authentic Catholicism. It’s a shame that someone of his potential influence does not have a good grasp on his (lapsed) faith because if he did, he could do alot of good with it.

He doesn’t seem to have the hate for his former religion that some lasped Catholics do. In fact, he doesn’t even call himself a ‘former’ Catholic but a lapsed one. Perhaps, if he continues to seek he will come back to the Church. We can pray that he does.

:thumbsup: I can’t wait to see this.Got to go to Block Buster and rent it soon.

Rented the movie last weekend, and loved it–I’ll probably buy it now. I remember the scene with the priest, but honestly, blinking at the wrong moment would have caused me to miss it: I don’t think you can accuse del Toro of being heavy-handed in whatever anticlerical critique he was attempting.

More repellent is the director’s uneven respective portrayals of the Francoist and Red armed factions. The Loyalist soldiers in the camp are depicted committing sundry (and characteristic enough) atrocities, but any viewer of Pan’s Labyrinth could walk away thinking that the Republican guerrillas were merely a ragtag group of idealistic kids who simply wanted a bit of medicine and food, and to stop being shot at. Of course, if del Toro had tried to show the Republicans at their characteristic worst in a way comparable to how he filmed the Francoistas, the film’s fairy-tale aesthetic couldn’t have been sustained–it’d be more The Killing Fields than Through the Looking Glass. As it is, though, uninformed viewers of his film won’t know know how truly the Spanish Civil War could have been characterised as a battle between the gangsters and the devils–it’s a shame both sides couldn’t have lost, but if one side had to win, Franco may have been the lesser of two hellish evils. Knowing that, though, I still can’t wait to see the movie again.

Quoted for truth.

Folks watching movies/TV frequently need to get a grip. There are bad priests. There are bad nuns. There are bad laymen. Heck, there have even been a handful of bad popes. This idea that every single representation of Catholics in the media should be saintly and above reproach is just silly.

Yes, some Catholics, including priests, collaborated with horrible dictators in the past. Including one priest in a movie that isn’t about the Church for all of three minutes hardly constitutes an attack on Catholicism.

– Mark L. Chance.

I think someone already mentioned this already…
FYI- Spain at that time was very Catholic, in fact I believe that was the main religion.
In addition to this, in his commentary, Del Torro indicated that this statement was taken almost verbatumn from another priest’s speach at this time. It also furthered emphasized the thoughts of the facists at the time.

Perhaps straying from the way this topic is going…
Can anyone tell me the words said by the priest during the funeral scene? I wasn’t sure if it was some part of the Requiem Mass, nonetheless they were amazingly beautiful.

I, too, thought they were beautiful.
I think it is from the bible.:confused:

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