Labyrinth — 30th Anniversary
September 16, 2016
This week I got to see Labyrinth on the big screen for the first time since it came out. At least, I’m assuming I saw it on the big screen when it was new — I actually don’t remember. But I’m assuming I did since I’ve always, always loved it.
This is such a special movie. Not just because it’s simple and yet filled with depth, but it’s a collaboration between so many creative geniuses, who are clearly enamored with the project, and all that magic comes through.
I understand this is a cleaned up/restored version, and it shows. The colors. The lining of Jareth’s cloak is a deep sparkling blue, and I never noticed that before. The goblins’ eyes glow red when the light hits them right. Much of the landscape of the Labyrinth has this sparkling sheen that’s been muted for 30 years, and now isn’t. There’s apparently a 30th anniversary Blu-ray available. I might need that. (Even though I already own like three copies of this movie.)
And Jareth. My God. The audience cheered at his first appearance. He fills the screen. But what struck me this viewing (besides the fact that I’m always seeing new and wonderful things in the movie) is how much that character is a warning. This is a coming of age story. A big part of it is Sarah leaving childhood behind and growing up. And yes, there’s a sexual component to that, and it’s almost entirely driven by Jareth. But he’s a warning: there are beautiful, beautiful men who will promise you the world. But they steal babies. They’re not good. Parse that sentence: “Let me rule you and I will be your slave.” Which is it? Can’t do both. Yes, this beautiful powerful man is offering to give you all your dreams. And it will only cost yourself, your own will. Sarah, just entering adulthood, will recognize that, now.
I love Jareth because he shows us that villains can be beautiful. They aren’t always ugly. They aren’t necessarily destructive. But they’re still villains. I got to thinking: Is there anyone now who could play Jareth? Who could get across that sense of beauty and power and danger and charisma? Has there ever been anyone who could play that character like Bowie did? Hollywood has lots and lots of pretty boys. But how many pretty, powerful men are there? The mature fae?
(Pause for much weeping and grief for the loss of Bowie.)
Sarah is also a really great character, and another data point on how I think in many cases the 80’s did just fine with women characters. She’s smart, driven, motivated, has agency, learns, and is generally wonderful. At some point I also really want to talk about grief in the story — part of Sarah’s coming of age is moving through grief and letting go of her mother. The film’s hints of this are so, so subtle — the clippings in her scrapbook and on her mirror show a beautiful dark haired woman who is clearly an actress, and I think the one who imparted a love of costumes and fantasy and make-believe to Sarah. But she’s gone now. Did she die? Did she leave? We don’t know. But at the end of the film, Sarah starts pulling those clippings down and putting them away. The movie never talks about this thread explicitly. And I absolutely love that it never does. I don’t think it’s the main part of the movie — it’s just one of many threads in Sarah’s life. I like that there’s a puzzle to figure out.
Gah, yes, I could talk about this movie for ages. I loved that there were parents with kids in the theater. I hope it means that love for this movie will be around for a long long time.