Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth is primarily set in post-Civil War Spain, centered around a young girl named Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) and her adventures following a run-in with a mystical Faun (Doug Jones). Ofelia’s mother has just remarried to a captain of the Spanish army, and is pregnant with his child. The stepfather, Captain Vidal (Sergi López), is a cruel man whose main task is to hunt down republican rebels; he and Ofelia do not get along, which causes her to often venture off on her own. A central component of the film is the fairy tale that precedes the main storyline, which speaks of a young princess of the underworld, who travels to the human world and loses her memory. The king, her father, believes her spirit will one day return to the underworld.
It is revealed that the Faun believes Ofelia is, in fact, the princess from the underworld, and proceeds to give her three tasks for her to prove herself. After successfully completing the first task, Ofelia is given the second task, which involves obtaining a dagger from the lair of the Pale Man, a monstrous being who has a taste for children. As she makes her way to Pale Man’s lair, Ofelia is tempted by the lavish banquet that is displayed before the unmoving creature. Despite the Faun’s explicit warning not to eat any of its food, Ofelia takes and eats, interestingly enough, two grapes, which were placed amongst a table of scrumptious fruits and vegetables. It is also important to note that the food displayed on the long banquet table are predominantly red, and, following the red tunnel that Ofelia travels through to reach the heart of the Pale Man’s tunnel, caters to the scene’s bloody and visceral theme.
The decision to have Ofelia to be tempted by mere grapes implies that they are not something she would have too often, particularly grapes of that quality. The use of fruit also seems to reference the idea of the forbidden fruit and temptation, both in the biblical sense and in traditional fairy tales, in which and temptation fruit (such as the apple for Snow White) often spells doom for the female protagonist. In his article, “Menstruation as Heroine’s Journey in Pan’s Labyrinth,” Richard Lindsay notes that the scene involving the grapes and the Pale Man “echoes of the Fall and expulsion from Eden in [Ofelia’s] failure and in Pan’s reaction.” Ofelia’s life, then, as the Faun had previously warned her, depends solely on her not eating any of the Pale Man’s food, and by doing so, Ofelia experiences a loss of innocence that both threatens her life and hinders the remainder of her journey. By initially giving into temptation, “Ofelia becomes mortal and subject to being lost to memory.”
The cut in which the camera shows a long shot of the entire table, with the Pale Man sitting silently at the end, is reminiscent of an earlier scene that appears in the “real world,” in which Vidal sits at the end of a banquet table with is subordinates. This draws a comparison with the villain of the real realm and a villain of the mystical realm, with a clear distinction created by the colors of the respective worlds (the real world utilizing more dull and earthy tones and the underworld utilizing more vibrant, warm tones). The two grapes themselves seem to be a reference to the Pale Man’s two eyes, which, rather than being on his face as one would assume, rests on a silver plate in front of the creature. The moment Ofelia eats the grapes (to the horror of the fairies that accompany her), the Pale Man shifts to life, immediately placing the eyeballs into his eye sockets, which, oddly enough, are located in the middle of his palms. Two of the three fairies had to sacrifice themselves in order to save Ofelia, and she manages to escape the Pale Man’s wrath unharmed. However, Faun chastises her for her decision to consume the Pale Man’s food, and goes as far as to deny the young girl her third task.
Regardless of the Faun’s warnings, the food at the Pale Man’s banquet were clearly designed as a way to lure in children who could not contain their desires. And, it has apparently worked incredibly well for the monster, as the camera quickly shows a pile of children’s shoes in the corner of the banquet hall. The grapes are be a symbol of temptation and desire, which becomes punishable by death; had the fairies not died, one would assume it would have been Ofelia who suffered that fate, as previous children had before her. By extension, they also represent a loss of innocence. Going against the Faun’s warning cost Ofelia dearly; she loses two fairy aids, as well as the Faun’s trust, nearly costing her a chance at returning to the underworld (though the Faun later retracts his statement). She could not have fathomed the repercussions of her actions, yet due to this event, becomes more self-aware and conscious of possible consequences. It is through this desire that Ofelia learns a life lesson and grows as a character, thus allowing her to continue her journey and achieve her goal.
Lindsay, Richard (2012) “Menstruation as Heroine’s Journey in Pan’s Labyrinth,” Journal of Religion & Film: Vol. 16: Iss. 1, Article 1.