How Pan’s Labyrinth’s Central Character Arc Helped Guillermo Del Toro Build Pinocchio’s Journey

I’ve written before about the similarities between del Toro’s Spanish-language works and “Pinocchio.” While “Pan’s Labyrinth” is set in Francisco Franco’s Spain, “Pinocchio” takes place when Italy was ruled by Benito Mussolini. Both films are about how children live under totalitarian regimes, and while adults around them kowtow to authority, the children resist having their wills stamped out.

Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), the lead of “Pan’s Labyrinth,” prefers fairy tales to reality. She meets a Faun (Doug Jones) who offers her a trip to the Underworld if she completes three tasks. As del Toro explained to The Wrap, “Tests that were not physical tests, but they changed her and measured her soul.” 

In each of Ofelia’s tests, she disobeys. In the first test, she ventures into a cavernous tree despite her mother’s warning to stay clean. In the second, she eats some food from the table of the Pale Man despite warnings not to then is nearly killed for it — disobedience doesn’t come without danger. Then in the final test, she refuses to give her infant brother to the Faun so he may take “the blood of an innocent.” This selfless disobedience is what enables her to go to the Underworld.

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