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The Role of Magical Helpers in Pan’s Labyrinth and Spirited Away

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Pan’s Labyrinth released in 2006 is a dark fantasy film directed by Guillermo del Toro. Spirited Away is also a dark fantasy film released in 2001 and it is directed by Hayao Miyazaki. In both the films style and narrative is similar. They both revolve around little girls who act as a protagonist. In Pan’s Labyrinth the character of little girl Ofelia is played by Ivana Baquero and in Spirited Away Rumi Hiragi plays the role of little girl Chihiro. We meet them in a normal world and then they travel to magical worlds which feature as a setting and there they meet magical helpers: in Pan’s Labyrinth it is faun and in Spirited Away it is Haku.

In both the films narrative is similar and the central character is played by little girls. In Pan’s Labyrinth it is Ofelia a curious girl who loves fairy tales and in Spirited Away it is Chihiro a smart but timid girl. We meet both the girls in a car, Ofelia travels with her pregnant mother to meet her new stepfather. Chihiro is going to her new home with her parents. While Ofelia is going, she finds an insect and she believes is a fairy. At night that insect appears in her bedroom and turns into a fairy and asks her to go with him and he takes her to underground world. There she meets a magical creature named Faun. Her mother always needs her daughter because of the cruelty and rude behaviour of her husband. In Spirited Away while going to their new house her father takes a shortcut and they enter an abandoned amusement park which her father wants to explore. While exploring the park they find food shops with no owners and her parents start eating that delicious food greedily and Chihiro is saying it is wrong. After that Chihiro goes further where she meets a boy named Haku who warns her to leave the place before sunset. Her parents turn into pigs after having that food: “The food produced in the other world has the power to make one stay in that world”. Chihiro is so nervous and start searching her parents. In both the films magical helpers plays an important role.

The elements of style are similar in both the films. They both are set in two worlds: normal world and mythical worlds. In both the films the magical worlds look dark. Both the directors use low key lighting in the magical worlds and high key lighting in real worlds. The magical creatures and darkness in the underworld features as a cinematography in both the films. The directors use both digetic and non-digetic sounds in the films. Both the directors use different colours to show a difference in real worlds and magical worlds. There they both meet magical helpers and they give them several tasks to do. In Pan’s Labyrinth Faun gives her three tasks to complete before the full moon. In Spirited Away Chihiro meets a nice boy named Haku and when haku gives her magical stones to eat to make him appear again and then she realizes that he is more knowledgeable, and he can help her to achieve her goal. In Pan’s Labyrinth faun gives magical stones to Ofelia and she put those stones in the mouth of toad to get a key from its belly and the toad yells out everything and she got a key. The director uses extreme closeup when toad yells out the waste material. In Spirited Away Chihiro also put magical stones in the mouth of no face man. The director uses extreme closeup when no face man yells out everything from his mouth. So, the similarity is that both the directors use magical stones as a prop.

The elements of narrative are similar in both the films. Both the films have happy ending as both the girls are able to achieve their goals. In the starting of both the films the girls are shown immature but, in the end, directors show a maturity level in Ofelia and Chihiro and tell their journey from childhood to adulthood. They show their struggle to achieve something. In both the films the little girls the protagonists do several tasks which are given by the magical helpers to complete their goals. After completing the several tasks Ofelia goes to her real parents in the underground realm and she become a princess of the magical world. In Spirited Away Chihiro does all the tasks so that she can save her parents and go to human world. After that she passes the final test and after that she meets her parents in the end.

To conclude the magical helpers plays an important role in both the films. Pan’s Labyrinth and Spirited Away is similar in both style and narrative. The magical creatures play an important role and help both the girls to achieve their goals.

Works Cited

  • Orme, Jennifer. “Narrative desire and disobedience in Pan’s Labyrinth.” Marvels & Tales, vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 219-235. EBSCOhost, Accessed 30 July 2019.
  • Pan’s Labyrinth. 2006. Directed by Guillermo del. Toro, performances by, Ivana Baquero, Ariadna Gil, Manolo Solo, César Vea and Roger Casamajor, New Line Home Entertainment, 2007.
  • Reider, Noriko T. “Spirited Away: film of the fantastic and evolving Japanese folk symbols.” Film Criticism, vol. 29, no. 3, 2005, pp 4-28. EBSCOhost, Accessed 30 July 2019.
  • Spirited Away. 2001. Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, performances by Daveigh Chase, Lauren Holly, Michael Chiklis, Suzanne Pleshette and Jason Mardsen, Studio Ghibli, 2015. 

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