Into the Labyrinth

Alright, this time I’m here to talk about a film of my choosing that was an independent film or shown at one of the chosen theaters in town. So here is the film I watched and am about to talk about….

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This is a fantasy film about a young girl named Sarah trying to save her baby brother Toby from the Goblin king Jareth (aka David Bowie). It begins after the over dramatic imaginative Sarah has an argument with her parents about babysitting her brother. Out of frustration she wishes that “the goblins would take you away, right now”. That is when the goblins appear and in the form of a barn owl, their king enters, glitter and all. Jareth makes a deal with her, if she could make it to the center of the labyrinth to his castle in 13 hours then he would give back the baby. But if not then Toby would become a goblin forever. Sarah goes into the labyrinth facing different tasks, meeting three traveling companions. Hoggle, Ludo, and Sir Didymus rescue her from several perils and help get her to the goblin city. They defeat the goblin army that waits for them there (mostly from Ludo summoning rocks to fight them off). Sarah then goes into the tower of the castle to face the goblin king alone. After she has captured Toby we learn that Jareth has developed deep feelings for Sarah and tries to persuade her to be ruled by him. She uses the lines from her play “Labyrinth” to break his power. With the final words “You have no power over me” (one of my favorite lines by the way) she defeats the king and he turns back into a barn owl and returns everything back to normal. From her adventure she begins putting her toys away and even giving one of her teddy bears to her baby brother. As her new friends say their good byes, she tells them that she will always need them and a goblin party is thrown in her room with many of the goblins she had encountered. The barn owl flies from her window and into the night ending the story.

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Brian Froud and Jim Henson wanted to collaborate again when Froud had painted this scene, inspiring Henson and the story.

 

This movie was created by a number of famous creative minds, including Brian Froud (designer and artist), Terry Jones (scriptwriter), Jim Henson (puppet designer), and George Lukas (Co-Creator). The script had been re-written many times by multiple people and did not have any real life until Jones looked through Brian Froud’s art. There he began really understanding the characters and fleshed out the story more. These sketches were also used as references for Jim Henson’s workshop where they built hundreds of goblin puppets. They also added more detail to the characters while in the process. To make the movie grandiose and mystical they used multiple techniques including painted background to add perspective, black screen for the fiery goblins scene, and special ropes and gears to help support David Bowie in the stair case scene.

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The puppeteers wore black to blend in the background

The puppeteers went through hoops to make the characters work. They created complicated animatronics for the faces and smaller details, they were placed in full body suits, and it took hundreds of people just to shoot one of the many crowd scenes. These techniques were perfected later in other fantasy films such as “Lord of The Rings”, “Hellboy”, and “Pan’s Labyrinth”.

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The Puppeteers got to dress up and dance around in the ballroom scene.

The story itself takes the “fairy-ed away” archetype and has fun with it. The story of being spirited away has been clued in from the pan in Sarah’s room, from the stuffed goblin dolls, to the books such as “Where the Wild Things Are” and “The Wizard of Oz”. This gives us a sense of Sarah’s surroundings creating the goblin kingdom. Alot of fairy tale aspects were incorporated into the film including the task of three is represented with her traveling companions, like the wizard of Oz. This movie is a light fun coming of age story.

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The story for me is nostalgic and wonderful on different levels. Of course it’s not to be taken seriously and I can admit that it is cheesy. But I love what went on behind the story. The people that created this collaborated so well as to make a whole world together. Terry Jones wrote in humor and fun characters, Jim Henson built an entire world for them to act out the plot, and Brian Froud tied it all together with his amazing art. I am a Brian Froud fan I will admit, his watercolor and earthly incarnation of fairies capture my imagination every time I look at them. He also takes mythology into account which I think is crucial when looking at any kind of story. Jim Henson was a man that wanted to bring happiness and laughter to the world through lively puppet characters. He revolutionized puppet building in movies and creates characters that actors could actually interact with (unlike computer animated creatures). Terry Jones was a part of the Monty Python crew and co-wrote most of their scripts. His wacky British humor makes us both laugh and think. And of course the hundreds and hundreds of other writers, puppeteers, builders, and actors put in such hard work to make a cult classic. It’s sad that it wasn’t as successful at the time, but it is fondly remembered by fans for years to come. Whether it is for it’s cheesiness, it’s whimsy, classic fairytale story, amazing puppetry, it’s music, or even it’s pure nostalgia.

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I throughly enjoy the performance the puppeteers give in this story through voice and gesture. They really animate these dolls into coming to life with every detail. The design of each goblin to be is beautiful. They seem more natural with all their ugliness, earthly detail, and variety. And of  course I do enjoy David Bowie playing the goblin king, but not for the reasons you would think. In fantasy the evil queen is always played to be sensual and destructive, they crave power, sex, and beauty. And I like to see that taken into the male gender. David Bowie does a great job of playing a dangerous sensual villain. He tempts the young hero like any lovely witch would to a knight.

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Cleavage V.S. Package

I realized this as I last watched this film that the seductive evil queen character is played here in this film as a king. And since some fairytales are about coming to age, puberty, and growing up it’s natural to look at the dangers of the ‘other’ gender. The hero has to learn lessons about what it is to be an adult. Change, responsibility, becoming wiser, and of course relationships. These encounters lean from the good to the bad. The evil ruler can be seen as a “beastly groom/bride” in disguise. When Sarah faces Jareth  he implores her to be his servant or to grovel and in return be her slave. Sounds like an abusive relationship. And Sarah, though tempted takes command and takes back her power. That is my favorite part of the film right there because she does not give in to the tokens that the king tries to seduce her with. She instead reminds him that he does not have any power over her. Sarah takes charge in what she looks for in a sexual partner. Not to be a slave or a tyrant ruler, but to be equal. We do not want to be objectified or be looked at as flawless goddesses, but to be seen as we really are, humans. That is one of the many things that our society needs is to remember that women are humans too. Relationships need to be looked at with love and understanding. And I applaud David Bowie for playing the sensual tempter and the writers for making him a full dimensional character. And of course I thank the costume designers for making the pants that tight. (yes I am laughing as I type this part).

The Labyrinth is a good mid-ground tale between ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’. It’s silly but also has a point (and yes I know you’re thinking about Jareth’s pants. Now can we get our minds out of the gutter). So not entirely perfect, I like it for it’s flaws and whimsy. Mostly though for all the hard world and talent put into it to give us a story to remember for years to come.

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