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Purpose of Life in “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Ghost Town” Essay

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Updated: Sep 1st, 2022

The meaning of life is one of the greatest puzzles millions of people have asked themselves, and only a few could answer it. In many cases, people try to understand what the purpose of their life is, which can take their entire life. In psychology, this search can be related to the top of the pyramid of needs, self-actualization. In literature, this is the eternal question and a matter of writers’ exploration. This paper includes an analysis of the major themes of the films Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) and Ghost Town (2008) in terms of the answers they provide to the question mentioned above.

Both films contain quite a clear response to the question as well as some guidelines for people to follow. In both movies, the protagonists try to fulfill their major objective that, eventually, appears to be their predestination. Bertram (the main character in the film Ghost Town) wants to live a normal ghost-free life, so he has to destroy the relationship between Gwen and Frank. Ofelia in Pan’s Labyrinth has to complete three tasks to reach the end of the labyrinth. The filmmakers created the universe where the real and metaphysical worlds are intermingled. It is noteworthy that people have to follow certain rules prescribed by supernatural forces, so it is tempting to assume that their actions are predetermined.

At that, both films show that people have free will and they are responsible for their lives and finding the right track to become happy. Bertram chooses to help ghosts to fulfill their unaccomplished affairs to help them leave the Earth. Ofelia chooses death rather than causing damage to her little brother, which seemed a fair and predetermined pay for reaching her goal. Both protagonists are ready to make decisions and take action to achieve their goals, although they might have a limited understanding of the ways the objectives have been set.

Ofelia and Bertram accomplish certain projects to self-actualize and become happy. The way this self-actualization takes place can be seen as a response to the eternal question put at the beginning of this paper. The filmmakers invite the viewers into a wide discussion sharing their views on the matter. It is suggested that the purpose of each person’s life is to help others and make the world around them better. When trying to complete tasks, Ofelia helps her mother to soothe her pain.

Bertram helps the ghosts to solve the issues that keep them in this world. Both characters make this world better by bringing happiness and balance. They also try to do no harm, which is another aspect of being a truly good person. The filmmakers are also optimistic as they show that being good translates into being happy. The girl finds her way home, her true home, becoming the queen of the underworld. The man finds the woman he truly loves, so he gets a valuable prize as well. It becomes clear that self-actualization is possible.

An important point to be discussed when analyzing the major theme in the two films under study is the setting and mood chosen by the filmmakers. Pan’s Labyrinth is quite solemn and dramatic with a focus on mythology. Ghost Town is a light comedy set in the modern world with the focus on religious beliefs or rather superstitions. Ofelia’s tale is set in the times of the Spanish Civil War with associated atrocities and horrors. It is a dark world of pain, blood, torture, and misery. Irrespective of these wartime nightmares, a little girl is courageous enough to live her life and be a good person helping others. In contrast to the setting and the mood of the girl’s story, Bertram enjoys the delights of the modern and prosperous western world. Nevertheless, he is a misanthrope who brings dissatisfaction and disappointment to people around him. At that, he understands quite soon that bringing balance and happiness makes him happy as well.

The two opposing moods and settings of the two films bring out another important point related to the prime question. According to the two stories, it is always possible to achieve one’s major goal irrespective of the circumstances and environments that may seem hostile. Human life is manifold with various joys and numerous sorrows, but people are able to grow and be truly ethical. Be it a little girl or a middle-aged man, they can make a difference and start doing the right things.

The imagery utilized in the two films also plays an important role in conveying the message. Pan’s Labyrinth appeals to people’s dark emotions and memories, making them associate themselves with Ofelia in her way to some bigger purpose. The tone of the story is solemn, and the viewer has the corresponding mood to think about their own journey. The scenes with tortures and deaths show the most horrific aspects of the humans’ earthly existence. The filmmakers use the metaphysical world as an allegory of the alternative all people have. Instead of being fixed on negative and even devastating events or experiences, people have a purpose to go through everything and make the world a better place.

The light comedy Ghost Town entertains viewers making them laugh and be relaxed throughout the entire film. However, the peculiar feeling of an open question still haunts the audience as people are offered to analyze their own life. The metaphysical is also an allegory for a path to choose. Ghosts’ problems are quite common, and these unresolved issues may seem serious, amusing, and so understandable. Viewers see the way the protagonist addresses these daily struggles and can reflect on their own contribution to solving problems. When an individual starts helping people, it can be regarded as a way to follow religious practices and laws. In reality, this approach is an instrument that can help them achieve self-actualization. The filmmakers help everyone understand than, using light and entertaining forms.

In conclusion, the films Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) and Ghost Town (2008) are characterized by different approaches used to show that the purpose of human lifetime is bringing light and balance to this world. The solemn story of Ofelia and the amusing narrative of Bertram invite the audience into a contemplation regarding the search for the purpose of life. The viewers observe the decisions made by the protagonists and associate themselves with these people as well as their choices.

Thus, it becomes clear that an individual making a difference is the one who has chosen the right path. In spiritual terms, people can say that they have faith to do the right things. For those who prefer the scientific approach, making this world a better place is a good way to become happy as it is a form of self-actualization. Both stories make the viewer reflect on the eternal question, which is the beginning of their journey to their own response.

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1. IvyPanda. "Purpose of Life in “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Ghost Town”." September 1, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/purpose-of-life-in-pans-labyrinth-and-ghost-town/.


IvyPanda. "Purpose of Life in “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Ghost Town”." September 1, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/purpose-of-life-in-pans-labyrinth-and-ghost-town/.


IvyPanda. 2022. "Purpose of Life in “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Ghost Town”." September 1, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/purpose-of-life-in-pans-labyrinth-and-ghost-town/.


IvyPanda. (2022) 'Purpose of Life in “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Ghost Town”'. 1 September.

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