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Time is on my side?

The Pale Man in "Pan's Labyrinth."
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OKLAHOMA CITY – I recently wrote about “Anniversaries,” noting several that took place earlier in September. In that piece, I noted the significance of the Talking Heads song “This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)” from 1983, a song that plays an important role in the Oliver Stone films Wall Street (1987) and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010). It is now syncing with those getting messages from "the other side," curiously enough.

In the sequel, starring Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf and Josh Brolin, the famous Francisco Goya painting from the 19th century, Saturn Devouring His Son, plays an important role in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, as it hangs in the home of Bretton James (Brolin).

Saturn, known in the Greek as Chronos, was a time-obsessed titan who was concerned that his overthrow had been foretold and that he would be overthrown by one of his sons. So, every time a son was born, he would devour him. But one son would escape – Jupiter.

Goya is said to have created the dark and malevolent Saturn Devouring His Son during a period of civil strife in his native Spain in the late 1810’s and early 1820’s. This painting is said to have reflected his personal mood and the mood of Spain at large.

Fast-forward 120 years or so to the 1940’s and we find Spain in turmoil, as the Francoist fascists have come into power after the brutal Spanish Civil War led to the defeat of the republican rebels.

We are taken to that time via Pan’s Labyrinth, the brilliant and beautiful 2006 film from Mexican-American director Guillermo del Toro.

The protagonist, the girl Ofelia, has come to rural northern Spain with her pregnant mother to be with her new husband Captain Vidal. He is a monstrous stepfather towards Ofelia and to humanity, particularly to leftist rebels who are still causing trouble for the fascist regime, which is merely an extension of the old Spanish Inquisition.

And like Chronos – the scythe-bearing Father Time – Captain Vidal appears irritated by people’s lack of punctuality or is tinkering with a watch or is holding on to the idea that his own father, killed in war in Morocco some time earlier, smashed his pocketwatch so his son would know the exact time that he died. Vidal is obsessed with time.

And Ofelia picks up on this, even as she enters the fairy world into which she escapes the horrors of the “reality” around her.

And as Pan the Faun (read: "Dawn of the horned man") enters her world and vice-versa, Ofelia is challenged to return to the underworld where she was a princess and can regain immortality. She longs for this promise and is willing to endure some tests in the process, including a challenge where she encounters the horrific “Pale Man” – a Saturn-like entity that devours children, as viewed on Goya-esque paintings on the walls of this subterranean setting, as well as piles of shoes that echo the Jewish Holocaust which is actually taking place at that time (it is set in 1944).

As Del Toro has explained: “The Pale Man represents … fascism and the Church eating the children when they have a perversely abundant banquet in front of them.”

And "the pale man" has never completely disappeared. Sadly, I'm afraid he is gaining strength amidst these troubled times.

Ofelia is warned by the Faun not to eat anything on the table – full of delicious food. Because if she does the Pale Man will likely eat and kill her. Ofelia is naturally tempted by the sumptuous feast before her, eating two grapes, and facing the wrath of the Chronos-like Pale Man.

Ofelia narrowly escapes this horrible fate.

But Spain does not. The rebels, while winning at the end in the film – a small victory with the death of the monstrous, Chronos-like Vidal – Franco is victorious and will hang on until his death in 1975. Spain still has not fully recovered from its civil war.

And this film, which I rewatched the other day, really resonated with me at this point in time. With fascist demagogue John Bennett, the Republican House member from Sallisaw demonizing Muslims and those who are different from him, while wrapping himself in the flag and waving his Bible around, those “days of ‘39” don’t seem so far off. And was it surprising that Nazi references were made multiple times during the press conference today put on by CAIR and others? it's a real concern.

We have warned time and again that fascist forces and small minds are once again on the march. I think Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth serves as a warning, just as Oliver Stone’s Wall Street films serve as a warning - that time is short. It is of the essence.

It is up to us to take those warnings seriously and act accordingly.

To learn more about the messages in Pan's Labyrinth, check out this essay.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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