This forever will be one of my favorites. I love magical realism movies, movies that mix reality with fantasy, with psychological elements, questioning the line between fantasy and reality.

The movie is about a little girl who, after moving in with her suppressive stepfather, is visited by fairies, and told that she has a journey to undertake. Will she become a fairy tale princess or will her stepfather, a captain of a nazi troop, force her to stop her childish games and adventures?

Note #1: Why are we watching?

Our wish fulfillment –

  • Wanting to go on Ofelia’s next exploration, her next journey in a fairy tale.
  • Wanting to see the next blend of reality and fantasy, through Ofelia’s eyes.
  • Wanting the evil, dictator captain to lose the war. Wanting to see the maid and the doctor overthrow the captain.
  • Yet the captain is a great character. And we watch, wanting to see his next ruthlessness or meticulous behavior.

Note #2: What emotions are driving the story forward?

We see the story through two major points of views — First, through Ofelia’s eyes —-

  • A feeling of wonder when mentally explore the fantasy worlds. (during Ofelia’s journeys)
    • It’s not the emotion of adventure. That is a very different emotion than this mental exploration. Adventure is more about watching a character do something physically challenging. Rather, with Ofelia it’s a curious, childish, playful exploration.
  • Drama is constant, as Ofelia says her step-dad is “not my father,” and she ruins a lot of materialistic things, such as brand new shoes that her mother gifted, in order to explore her fantasy world. Also drama around her doing weird “witch-craft” like, after receiving orders for a Faun, she puts a rooted plant in a bowl of milk, under the pregnant mother’s bed.

Second, through eyes of all verse the captain, the Time Keeper —-

  • Thriller (mental hide and seek): the doctor and maid sneak around, helping out the allies. It’s a feeling of thriller because if they make one mistake and the captain finds out — that’s that.
  • Little adventure: Can we defeat the captain? Can the rebels win the war?
  • (Even when it’s just the Time Keeper on screen by himself, we experience it like an outsider because we dislike him. Note: one way to make a viewer more compassionate towards a character, if that’s what you would want, is to show a scene where he’s taking care of his sick mother or having a mental breakdown in the shower.)

Note #3: plot and character

Overarching plot: a quest, which causes a lot of drama with reality. Subplot: war plot (captain verse allies), told with the tone of psychological, thriller, and adventure. Character arc: reality verse fantasy. Every scene with Ofelia confronts her problem that she wants to live in fantasy but in reality, she unable to do that. She learns in the end: her brother’s life in this world is worth more than being the princess in a fantasy world.

Note #4: MICE elements

A more technical note. MICE brackets are the opening and closing of story questions. The easiest version of this is the mystery: who did it? This is “I” in MICE, standing for inquiry. A question is raised and we want until that question is answered. “M” is milieu, the character enters a new land and we wonder how they will escape or we wait for them to do something so that they can go home. “C” is character. A character is unsatisfied with some aspect of life and we watch until their inner struggle has gone away, either by overcoming that aspect or by accepting it. And “E” is event, such as a giant meteor is blazing towards the earth, how will we stop it?

<character> “he’s not my father” Will Ofelia admit that he is her father? (4 min 30 sec)
<milieu> She meets her step-father. He aggressively teaches her that soldiers shake with their right hand, not a dainty left hand. Will she escape this nazi-driven household? (6min 42 sec)
<event> although it started before the story, we’re introduced to the war here. Will the rebels overthrow the captain? (16min 5 sec)
<inquiry> Can I become a princess? Ofelia sees a real fairy who asks her to follow to Pan’s Labyrinth. (18min 5 sec)
</event> Allies win.
</inquiry> Ofelia says no to Pan.
</milieu> She makes the decision to take the baby and runs away, never to return.
</character> She decides her brother’s life in this world is worth more than being the princess in a fantasy world.