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Allegory in film is described as the use of symbolism in a movie in order to tell a story as well as explain a larger idea or lesson which may not be completely obvious to a normal viewer. Allegory in film is usually an underlying idea in a normal looking movie in order to evoke the viewer into digging into the movie and understanding its deeper meaning. I will be discussing allegory in Fight Club and Pan’s Labyrinth as they relate to each other as well as the ideas of society and the role of people in society. I will also be exploring how authors portray different social groups based on their background and how social groups are represented in film and literature.
In 1999 the film Fight Club, was released by American director David Fincher. The movie is an adaptation of the novel by writer Chuck Palahniuk in 1996. It initially appears to be a typical American action movies much like how Pan’s Labyrinth appears to be a typical, dark, thriller movie. It deals with violence, a group of young men, in an underground atmosphere (the lowlands of New York) – and supports a critique of contemporary society. Just how Pan’s Labyrinth deals with dark underground settings, mysterious monsters, and evil dictators. There are many that believe that there is also a deeper meaning in the film and that it is the allegorical representation of adolescence and the rights of passage that go along with it. The deeper meaning in Pan’s Labyrinth is debated but usually comes down to being at war with oneself, the innocence of a child, and the role of war. The main characters themselves are older, in their 30’s, but their concerns about their lives are similar to a more typical teenager. Oddly, the film was, and still is, more popular with teens than with those in their late 20’s and early 30’s.
To answer the question of “Explain how the authors of at least two literary works have portrayed a social group in a particular way. How might the contexts of the authors have influenced their portrayal of these social groups?” We have to first explore the characters in each film and their relation to each other as well as the social groups they may fit in and how this may develop throughout the story. Several parts of the main character’s journey appear to represent adolescent issues: the disenchantment with the world, the relationship to sexuality, the search for limits, and risk taking behavior much like the behavior of Ofelia in Pan’s labyrinth. Both movies have many parallels in the way behavior and age are represented and explored by the main characters. The film represents the often uncomfortable passage of a teenager from a member of a family and all things related to a normal childhood, in to adult life.
The main character is an executive at a large automaker who seems to have it all. He has a good job that pays well and a nice apartment in Manhattan. But he is a loner and appears to be moody and depressed. He has no life outside of work, no girlfriend and no relationships with his family. He starts to go to some support groups but is not really finding any support. In Pan’s Labyrinth Ofelia shares many of the same lonely feelings and actions which ultimately leads her to finding the Labyrinth and the magic within. Back in Fight Club he meets Tyler, played by Brad Pitt, who introduces him to an entirely different life.
There is a scene where the main characters apartment blows up. From a symbolic point of view, this could represent a desire to destroy a restrictive social framework in favor of a new relationship to the world, based on experimentation. New relationships are formed with those in the support groups and with Marla and Tyler, representing a “new life” strongly opposed to the strict and anonymous nature of that time (the work, consumption, etc.). In Pan’s Labyrinth this movie moment or turning point could be related to the first time Ofelia explores the labyrinth and meets the monster who takes her on her adventure.
Tyler introduces him to violence by agreeing to fight him regularly. At the same time, Tyler meets Marla, with whom he starts a relationship, essentially focused on sex. Tyler then begins to give the Fight Club a “political” dimension. He denounces the consumer society and urges the members of the club to take action against it: breaking television antennas on the roofs of buildings, vandalizing stores, etc. This group gradually takes the shape of a militia and their actions begin to take on causes that are more and more important. The organization takes the name of ‘Project Chaos’. The main character, first stands back, but then opposes this evolution of the Fight Club. The disagreement between he and Tyler increases as the Chaos Project grows, until Tyler disappears. When Tyler does come back in the film, the key to the film is revealed: the two men are in fact one and the same person. The main character then understands that Tyler comes from his imagination and that he hallucinates his existence as a way to escape his life.
The conflict that brings together the ‘two’ men is not unlike that of the teenager confronting his father. The main characters path explores the consequences of the absence of a masculine model. Tyler, in some ways, provides that role model. He even says, ‘We are a generation of men raised by women.” Tyler told Fight Club members: ‘We are the forgotten children of history. We have no objective, no place. No big war, no big depression. Our war is a spiritual war, our depression … it’s our lives.”
At the beginning of the film, the main character has little to no interest in relationships and even questions his sexuality at one point. In one of the support groups, he is faced with a man who has had testicular cancer and has had major surgery that impacts his feelings as a man. Then the character meets Tyler and he questions his sexuality and his interest in women because he has such strong emotions and feelings towards Tyler. Finally, when Tyler meets Marla and starts a relationship with her, the main character deals with his own feelings of jealousy but also his renewed interest in women. Both films rely heavily on hearing and visual cues which aid in the overall effect and tone of the movies. All in all both films explore the relationships between one’s self, their age, maturity, and sexuality among other things. Overall the allegory seen in both movies is that one should do what they believe and what makes them happy instead of following the crowd and doing what is “expected” of them.
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