Seemingly small moments, unexpected and beautiful, make this world interesting. Noticing the beauty all around is a pastime that comes with many benefits, especially in the field of the humanities. Art, music, and film—they are areas I will always enjoy, but one specific night heightened my love for all three, and it happened in the most humble of places.

First of all, some background would help show the context. In 2017, I was 15, and had not seen an R-rated movie in my life (knowingly, at least—I don’t count the movie I saw with my friends that we all thought was PG-13 and was, in reality, R-rated), and my parents were pretty strict on that rating. Furthermore, I was understandably surprised when they insisted on me watching an R-rated film with them. The fateful movie was called Pan’s Labyrinth, directed by Guillermo del Toro in 2006. I was skeptical due to several factors, including the rating and language, which was Spanish, so we needed English subtitles. Even so, I gave it a chance, thinking that a movie with the rating it had would have to be amazing for my parents to let me watch it. That reasoning turned out to be true.

In the cozy bedroom of my parents, I didn’t simply watch a movie; I experienced an epiphany, or at least my Humanities Moment. I don’t want to spoil the movie for anyone, because they need to see it for themselves, so I’ll give a general premise. Pan’s Labyrinth is a fantasy drama film following the adventures of 10-year-old Ofelia, who finds a labyrinth near her new home in 1944 Spain. A faun-like creature meets her there, who gives her tasks to complete. Meanwhile, her pregnant mother marries a new husband, Captain Vidal, who is a cruel Falangist hunting down rebels after the Spanish Civil War. The film blends fantasy and reality together so that it’s sometimes difficult to distinguish between them. The film hit me hard with its brutal representation of war and violence, and the fantastical beauty found within those moments of cruel reality. I’ll be totally honest: I was sobbing uncontrollably by the end, and could hardly go to sleep that night because of the thought of this movie. Two main factors, other than its artistic choices, acting, etc, have influenced me and changed my perspective: music and history.

Much of the music made for this film was hauntingly beautiful. Whole stories can be kept within a single song, which was shown in Pan’s Labyrinth’s music. Emotions and unspoken thoughts were woven into the hummed tune of Mercedes’ lullaby, which was the song that inspired me the most. Simply through the music, it gave me so many ideas for characters in the story I was writing, which led me to animate to the lullaby. It also led me to learn the music on the piano. Pan’s Labyrinth gave me a wonderful example of what music can do.

Second, the realness from the movie staggered my perspective of the world. It showed me how many violent battles and wars have happened all over the earth and are happening right now. The aftermath of the Spanish Civil War left people divided into political parties, and the violence caused by Captain Vidal, a fascist sort of monster, harmed and killed the rebels of different ideals (“Pan’s Labyrinth”). It left me wanting to learn more about the present conflicts in our world, just to have the knowledge so as not to fall into the trap of ignorance.

To say the least, Pan’s Labyrinth created a Humanities Moment for me, forever to change my perspective on war, and inspire me to create works of art.

– Evalin Musser (2020 senior at Mountain Heights Academy)