Saturday, June 02, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth --More Gnostic than Pagan?

Pagan blogger Jason Pitzl-Waters has written a great deal about the film Pan's Labyrinth (El laberinto del fauno), praising it in words such as these:

I believe "Pan's Labyrinth" presents a unique opportunity to discuss Pagan/polytheist theology in contrast to the dominant monotheisms. Unlike "The Da Vinci Code", this film isn't bogged down with questions about Christian heresy and Gnosticism and can be referenced without having to talk about our views on Mary Magdalen's marital status. If this film continues to seep into public conversations about faith and religion, Pagan commentators should be ready to move beyond disclaimers regarding Ofelia's actions and instead talk about what elements in the film accurately portray Pagan ideas and beliefs.

Living 25 miles from the nearest movie house, M. and I are big Netflix customers, and last night we finally saw the film now that it is out on DVD.

Neither of us would have called it a "Pagan" movie, faun or no faun. (I will skip the "faun movie" puns.)

To me it was far more Gnostic, although perhaps not so thoroughly Gnostic as The Matrix.

That Ofelia is a "lost princess" seems like yet another telling of the wanderings of Sophia (Wisdom) in the fallen world. Many people respond to that story of separation: "I am not from here. My parents are not my real parents. I belong in a better, purer place." So Gnostic.

The "lost princess" is an archetypal story. It is why so many wanted to believe that young Grand Duchess Anastasia survived the murder of the Russian royal family in 1918 to wander lost and unrecognized for years. The story pulls us. As the Wikipedia article points out, Sophia is the original "damsel in distress."

Gnosticism and Paganism have their points of contact, but they differ in their views of divinity and the material world. In Pan's Labyrinth, the material world is clearly one to be escaped from (and with good reason) and the "real world" is somewhere else.

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Blogger Jordan Stratford+ said...

You were so right up until your last sentence. The film is undeniably Gnostic (cf "The Hymn of the Pearl").

However, it is a (common) mistake to say that Gnostics want to escape from "the material world" - the Valentinian Gnostic literature (and almost all modern Gnostics) speaks of the natural world in way that's extremely loving and Pagan. No, it's not the "world" we escape from, it's the "system" imposed UPON the world that's the problem. Injustice, cruelty, poverty, lack of compassion. Huge difference.

1:00 PM  
Blogger Chas S. Clifton said...

Fair enough, Jordan, if you choose to use "the world" in the sense of secular systems rather than physical creation.

But how would would you as a Gnostic priest describe the differences, granted that there are multiple varieties of Gnosticism and Paganism?

1:40 PM  
Anonymous Erik said...

See, this is exactly why I tagged you... I've had trouble with all the "breakthrough pagan movie" hoopla around this film (which I thought was beautifully done, and which I NEVER want to see again), but haven't been able to put a name to it. Since I find Gnosticism to be the diametric opposite of paganism as I understand and practice it, your analysis makes perfect sense to me.

Of course, I also believe that "The Wicker Man" (the original, that is) is a profoundly anti-pagan film, so maybe I'm just a contrarian. :)

5:58 AM  
Anonymous Erik said...

In consideration of Jordan's post above, let me reword to say "I find Gnosticism as I currently understand it to be the diametric opposite of paganism."

6:00 AM  
Blogger sopka said...

I did not see it when I viewed the movie but you are right there is a more gnostic philosophy and folklore in the tale than pure pagan but then what is purely pagan in the modern world even the Hindu and buddhist religions have been touched by it dealings with the west and it philosophies.

5:20 AM  
Blogger Kay said...

I saw a fair amount of Christian symbolism in the movie, as well as Gnostic, but I too don't understand all the hoopla about it in pagan circles. It didn't seem pagan to me at all.

6:23 PM  

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