labyrinth the movie

Posted on June 30, 2009


I guess I have been fixated on the Labyrinth, the movie, the manga, the fan fiction, the essays, the art, the characters, the mythology, the symbolism…. Maybe, the movie and all these other stuff just represent something I have been looking for myself.

sarah and jareth outside the labyrinth

When I first saw the movie as a 15-year old, it was just an adventure, slightly menacing—but I didn’t know where the menace was coming from. I knew there was something… odd, especially during the Escher room scene: the Goblin King was again trying to confuse Sarah with his spells and time-bending illusions, so she will fail to rescue the baby brother he snatched from her—yet, as he was singing his deadly glamor, he looked so sad, and lonely.

I am what my friends call me, a late bloomer… very late.

Labyrinth became one of my favorites, in the same league as Neverending Story, Lady Hawke, and Terminator. Over the years, I watched it again, and again, and again, and then I forgot about it.

A couple of months ago, in one of my hunting expeditions at Booksale, I found a copy of a manga, Jim Henson’s Return to Labyrinth. I debated buying it; after all, I’m too grown up to be reading this stuff still. For nostalgia’s sake, as a trophy (maybe, I could trade it with a fellow bookworm), I bought it, even if at that time, I doubted I would enjoy reading it much.

I didn’t much. But I did remember the movie, so I researched it online, and discovered there were thousands upon thousands of forums, sites, and fan fiction devoted to everything Labyrinth. I was intrigued, tried to recall the scenes and dialogue in my mind, to look again at the movie in my mind’s eye.

And I realized: I’m looking at it with new, yet older eyes. The Labyrinth has taken on a darker aspect, a serious tone. Apparently, it was stuffed full of metaphors and imagery that go straight for the subconscious. The producers had more themes in mind than just a growing-up of a little girl; they injected all sorts of deep and weird ideas, on practically all convenient spots in the movie—in the crystal balls, the snake that turns into a goblin, the peach, the ballroom, the masked dancers, the bog of eternal stench, the wise man and his snickering bird-hat, and so on and so forth.

Even before I started to read the exhaustive essays and fan fiction about the Labyrinth, I figured out—or I interpreted—that the labyrinth is supposed to stand for the complexities of the subconscious, our dreams, hopes, and fears. The goblin king is the key to that mystery, yet he also stands for seduction and temptation. To surrender to him is to turn our back on duty; on all that is holy, maybe; and, definitely, life.

When Sarah rejected him, she rejected the power of her darkest urges over her. She chose to grow up, in the real world.

Much has been made about this wooing of the innocent by the wicked. A million, million fan girls have swooned from the very idea. I swoon too… just a little, mind you! But I am adult despite the adolescent still nesting in my subconscious abode (I thought I had kicked it out, darn it…), and I am more disturbed by the idea of the subconscious’s power to create and destroy… and manipulate.

If you will inspect Sarah’s room near the beginning of the movie (hit the pause button every now and then), you will recognize many of the elements characterizing the movie scattered about her room. She has stuffed toys of Sir Didymus, the fox-squirrel knight, of Ludo, the gentle beast, of the dwarf Hoggle who became her best friend. The poster on her wall is that of an Escher painting. There is a miniature labyrinth on her bookshelf. The photograph of her mom’s new boyfriend looked eerily similar to the Goblin King. On her vanity table is a music box, on which a doll twirls in a sugar-spun white ballroom gown.

If the Labyrinth is Sarah’s subconscious, and all the creatures there patterned after her imaginings, what is the Goblin King then? A villain for her sake? So she could be the hero and save the day?

You’ve run so long… You’ve run so far
Your eyes can be so cruel… Just as I can be so cruel…
Though I do believe in you… Yes I do
Live without the sunlight… Love without your heartbeat
I, I can’t live within you

When I watched the movie again, I had this odd thought: Sarah Williams, the innocent little girl, is maybe the true villain, the most cruel puppeteer that ever lived, for she made her puppet love her, and hurt her…. then she rejected him.

Gahd, this is all too much. Maybe, I should try to look at the Labyrinth the way a very opinionated cubicle-dweller friend does: when she watched the movie, all she saw was a man in drag wearing heavier make-up than the girl, prancing around in tights. She fell off her chair, laughing.

Labyrinth essays

Labyrinth was produced by George Lucas, directed by Jim Henson, and co-written by children’s author Dennis Lee and Monty Python alumnus Terry Jones in 1998. The movie stars Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie.

<br><br><a href=”; target=”_blank”>Lyrics</a> | <a href= target=_blank>Bowie, David – Within You lyrics</a>

Posted in: tv & movies