The ending of Pan's Labyrinth is fairytale cheesy unless you accept the girl was hallucinating the entire time to escape from reality and no magical kingdom was waiting for her. — Pak
So then, one is left to wonder how far back the hallucination goes. If only the "magical" parts of the movie were hallucinations, and the rest were real, then how did Ofelia escape from the room she was locked in and steal away her brother? Having the ending be deliberately ambiguous so the audience could choose which type of ending they liked was a stroke of genius, to be sure.—Amethyst
Or, conversely, it's GRIMDARK nihilistic unless you accept the girl went through meaningful, genuine trials and found magic and meaning even in the horribleness of war, without surrendering to either evil or insanity. Interestingly, the film sets it up so that this is actually more plausible by the standards of Occam's Razor than the alternative; without it, she inexplicably teleports twice and the final shot of the flower blooming doesn't have an explanation either, since no one is around to hallucinate it. — Haven
Okay, in this troper's opinion, it was less a hallucination than a trauma-triggered fantasy perception of Ofelia. All of it. One can clearly see how the events involving the magic beings are triggered/dependent on the real-life happenings. And, for that matter, this troper believes to have figured out, how she escaped the room in the end.
May be a tiny bit Wild Mass Guessing, but although we do know that her door was guarded, the guard may have either gone by the time Ofelia exited, or he went to take a look at the commotion down at in the courtyard (the two survivors of a patrol had made it back to their HQ at the mill). Now, if it was really fully locked is another thought. Just because Vidal ordered the door to be locked, it doesn't mean that the guard actually did it (he may not have found it necessary). Either that or Vidal actually only bluffed. In fact, as Vidal catches Ofelia with her baby brother in his study, he does not seem very confused why she isn't locked in her room. He looks rather annoyed, in fact. Anyway, as Ofelia, her brother and Capitano Vidal escape the mill, the Guerillas (led by Mercedes) are seen entering Ofelia's bedroom, only to find it abandoned. Although the audience can catch a glimpse of Mercedes pushing open the door, one cannot define, whether it has been locked or not. It probably wasn't, or else the Guerrillas would have had to kick it in. —Jeezer
I realised after a few viewings that it's even more brilliant, because there's a third kind of ending - that the faun and everything had been real, but he wasn't lying about abandoning her, and only the ending was a hallucination. Which opens up a whole new subtext to the rest of the movie. Her kingdom is called The Underworld, she has to sacrifice a baby to get in, refusing to do so makes her unworthy to get in, and frankly, that faun just isn't a very convincing good guy. Hell much? -Whatever
Yes, God forbid any folklore have a conception of the Underworld that isn't Hijacked by Jesus. Sorry, but that trope really annoys me.
I have never heard those tales about the moon around here. As far as I know, the film takes place in Galicia, or at least in north Spain (and the mythologies have many points in common). In Galician mythology, there are two worlds: the one above ground, our realm, and the realm of the dead that also is the realm where mouras (like the Irish sidhe), so it's actually possible that Ofelia died but still managed to return. Also, being dead doesn't mean that you can no longer walk the world of the living.
Regardless of whether or not she actually reaches the Underworld when she dies, the very nature of it is dubiously "good." It took me a day to remember the actual description of the Underworld, which is a world with neither pain nor sunshine. The reason the princess left in the first place was to be able to know joy, which also led to suffering. What made it brilliant was that the traditional moral of these things is "you must know suffering to know joy," therefore, the chaotic world is the better alternative. However, here Ofelia is desperate to return to the unchanging, safe world. This is also the brilliance of the movie, because the way the traditional moral is reversed serves to augment the fact that the heroes of this story are the communist rebels.
Saywhat? Only if you believe that communism is about grey jumpsuits and nothing much changing, which would have been a surprise to the anti-Stalinist Trotskyist movement. The communists and anarchists of the Spanish Civil War, who decked out the streets with flags and partied like it was 1999 after the Revolution, might be a bit surprised by this.
If it was all just hallucination, then the chalk outline of a door in her room when the adults are looking for her serves no purpose.
Word of God says that everything really happened, none of it was a hallucination.
Is that so? This Troper recalls reading that Del Toro never gave a definite answer precisely because it is left up to the viewer to decide even though he tends to hint it was real. Personally, I believe that it was all a tragic hallucination but, either way, limiting the possibilities would be a huge mistake and Del Toro knew that.
I feel that it would be "cheesy" if it all was a hallucination and confirmed as such. It would suck all the genuine beauty and magic out of the film and reduce if to a boring run of the mill plot where people were too cowardly to ascribe something to magic. Not magic as in the standard American hock, but genuine magic, scary and overwhelming.The brilliance is leaving how she got out open to interpretation. Open to the hope, that it was magic.
There's a quote of Dumbledore's that seems quite appropriate here. Something like "Of course it was all in your head, Harry, but why on Earth should that mean it wasn't real?"
Pan's Labyrinth is even more brilliant to anyone who has any understanding of folklore: The Faun leads Ofelia on her quest to return to the moon, but in the folklore of that part of the world, the moon is the location of the land of the virtuous dead. So all along Ofelia's quest to escape to the moon is a quest to die nobly enough to earn her place there.
It's even more poignant when you realize that Ofelia's only real choices in the film are between dying virtuously or dying miserably. The option of living never appears in the Crapsack World era of Spain post-Spanish civil war.
Everyone says that Ofelia holds the Idiot Ball when she eats the foot set out at the Pale Man's table. How hard is it to resist the food that belongs to Mr. Nightmare Fuel when you know darn well the consequence of eating food of the Underworld! But... is Ofelia really that much more oblivious than her mother? Her mother who marries Captain Vidal, allows herself to be dominated by him body and soul, and must know how cruel he is, but is blinded by the wealth, comfort, and prestige that he offers. "Look at the beautiful clothes your father gave to us!"
As del Toro stated himself in the DVD commentary, she hasn't eaten in what, a day? Two? Or maybe it was just skipping 2 meals (I forget his exact words). Either way, she hasn't eaten in a long time. Hunger makes you do crazy things.
I've always wondered, how much choice did Ofelia's mother have in the matter? I haven't watched the movie in some time, but as I recall, Vidal first pursued her. I imagine it would be dangerous for a single, unmarried woman with a daughter living alone in Fascist Spain to spurn the advances of a sadistic, high-ranking official? Perhaps this is treading into WMG territory. In that sense, it would make sense for Carmen to attempt to warm Ofelia to Captain Vidal, knowing that he could literally hold the power of life or death over them.
In a way, the juxtaposition of the Pale Man's table with the scene of frightened townspeople lining up to take the only food they could probably get, rations doled out by the Fascists, has some significance. Ofelia's mother is not to blame for seeking a way out of a dangerous situation and possible destitution; monsters manipulating hungry people with the promise of being well-provided for is hardly rare.
Not to mention, while I want to believe the OP didn't mean it, their words come off as victim-blamey and rahter... offensive in regards to Domestic Abuse. Put yourself in Carmen's shoes - a single mother who's in an incredibly disadvantaged situation (war, destitution, illness, etc.) is surely going to openly rebel against a brute like Vidal, who could easily hurt her. (Not likely kill her, since he needs to have a son and heir badly.) And yet the OP says Carmen "allows herself to be dominated in mind and soul" and "is blinded by his wealth, prestige and comfort"? Uh, nope, things aren't that easy - Carmen was trying to cope with her and Ofelia's damn harsh situation, and definitely couldn't "fight back". One thing is a "weak female character" who has next to no agency/motivations/etc., and another is a "powerless female character" who is in a terrible situation and either cannot strike back or hasn't found out how... like Carmen. (Ofelia does her best to handle self more actively, even if trying to retrieve her brother gets her shot to death — but then Mercedes finishes the job. Magnificently.)
I think everyone's forgetting something: the... baby root thing that the faun gives Ofelia to cure her mother (the thing that's put in milk and has to be given blood everyday). Both Vidal and Ofelia's mother saw and could touch it.
But also only Ofelia sees it move and hears its pained screams during the fireplace scene.
Mandrakes are real plants that grow in Europe. It is also a nightshade and very poisonous and widely used in magic rituals.
So...how does a small girl get a hold of a whole mandrake in a remote outpost during a civil war? Ebay?
When the narrator talks, notice that the story refers to the heroine as "the Princess." There's the detail that the narrator never says the Princess and Ofelia were the same person. Taking that into account, one can argue that it wasn't real.
When Ofelia asks the faun why she ought to trust him, his reassurances aren't all that convincing. This may have been intentional. If she had trusted him, the Secret Test of Character might not have been applicable.
The faun's final test to kill her brother and open the door, which is in reality the Secret Test of Character, is hinted at by Dr. Ferraro's dialogue during his CMOA. "Because to obey orders just like that, for the sake of obeying... that is something that only people like you do, Captain."
Not to mention, this human backstory makes him scarier — it means that anyone can potentially turn out to be like him, if the right circumstances ever take place.
A lot of what happens to Mercedes mirrors Ofelia's trials. Stealing the key from the toad's belly mirrors Mercedes stealing the key to the storehouse from Vidal, using the key to get what she needs stealthily, wanting to take Ofelia away mirrors Ofelia wanting to take her brother away.) At the end, Mercedes is left with Ofelia's brother; what if everything Ofelia goes through is just Mercedes' telling the baby a bedtime story? She's immortalizing the girl she loved so much by putting her into the stories she loved so much.
The last part was most likely Jossed: see the link above. Nothing says Mercedes wouldn't tell the little brother awesome stories of his Plucky Girl of an older sister, thought.
Just what would Vidal have done if his child had turned out to be a girl?
Given the line to the doctor about saving the "son" if it comes down to a choice between the mother and child, I don't think he would have had her killed, but probably would have handed her off to a nanny (probably Mercedes) with the intention of shipping her to a boarding school (preferably overseas) when she was old enough. He then would have remarried as soon as possible to try again at getting a son. Also, I get the feeling he would have no problem cheating on his wife but would want his son to be "legitimate."
According to legend, the screams of a mandrake root will bring death to anyone who hears it. Ophelia and Carmen were in earshot of the mandrake root's death throes (the latter having chucked it into a fire), and they very likely died over the course of the film.