Thursday, July 15, 2010
recommendation: "Labyrinth" (1986 movie)
What happens when dreams come true?
This is the question at the heart of Labyrinth, a funny, creepy, lovely story of temptation, trust, and self-discovery. Sarah wants a different life, a fantasy. "It's not fair!" she cries. Reality is miserable. It's wretched. It sucks. But as Jareth, the Goblin King, replies: "You say that so often. I wonder what your basis for comparison is."
What is better than reality? Labyrinth is one of the few movies I would dare to call magical, and no doubt--it was made by a very literal dream team, including Jim Henson, Brian Froud, Terry Jones, George Lucas, David Bowie, and Jennifer Connelly, all vastly talented.
And every scene is a wonder. My imagination can't even keep up. Each creature, from the Worm ("'allo!") to dear monstrous rock-caller Ludo is a self-contained marvel, a fully-developed person, thoughtful and strange and devious and gentle. The labyrinth itself has countless depths, countless worlds, countless symbols.
Where everything seems possible and nothing is what it seems.
In the labyrinth, who do we trust? Jareth is wickedly beautiful. (David Bowie reaches jaw-popping, heart-killing aesthetic nirvana.) The masquerade ball is just the same, and breaks my heart every time. It's the scene that encapsulates the movie: a ball within a ball, a bubble of loveliness within a bubble of sly forgetfulness, layers upon layers, just like the Goblin King. The masks and the costumes are gorgeous beyond belief--and they're only so gorgeous because they hide malice underneath. Such unbearable beauty can only be dashed.
The world comes down. But, like Sarah, we forget, and begin again....
Labyrinth is a story about finding love (of someone, of something, of things tangible and intangible and things hoped for and things longed for), a story about learning what you'll surrender for your desire. Both Sarah and Jareth are in pursuit, but neither realizes what they're truly chasing until the last moment. Sarah thought she wanted her baby brother back, but in fact, she discovers herself. Jareth thought he could rule everything, including himself, but he discovers that no one can walk through the world untouched. Their hearts lead them in different directions, and to be together means one must submit to the other.
Look what I'm offering you--your dreams. I ask for so little. Just let me rule you, and you can have everything that you want. Just fear me, love me, do as I say, and I will be your slave.
There is nothing equal about the relationship between creator and created. And how can one be both? Even dreams have realities, and they too can be harsh. When we struggle through the labyrinth to discover what is in our hearts--that's when the bubble breaks. We learn that to dream is to think in paradox. Nothing is what it seems: whose world is whose? To imagine is to live, but to imagine is to hurt.
I have been generous up until now, but I can be cruel.
Dreams give, but dreams take. If we fall for our dreams, we're in their power; we belong to them as much as they do to us. Can we risk falling?
Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the goblin city; for my will is as strong as yours, and my kingdom as great. You have no power over me.
Sarah is strong. She learns how to open the right door. She accepts weakness, and in doing so, finds balance. She says to her dreams, "I don't know why, but every now and again in my life, for no reason at all, I need you." She is the one with the power.
It's so hard to be strong.