Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: A Mormon perspective

My wife and I have been going through all of the movies which we own (which is actually quite a lot) and watching them and deciding if we really want to keep them in our home, if they are films we would want our kids watching, and if they are films we believe we will watch again. As part of this project, last night we watched Jim Henson’s Labyrinth.  Yes, that awesome move from  your childhood with David Bowie in tight pants.

I must admit that I have always loved this movie, I have always been a fan of Jim Henson and his Muppets and all of his other projects, especially his television show The Storyteller.  Jim Henson does know how to tell a good story, and he pioneered wonderful puppetry and technology in order to tell the story.

But as I was watching the Labyrinth, I was struck by the themes and the motifs portrayed that are reflections of what I believe about life and eternal life.  Now, obviously not everything in the film is a direct allusion to theology, but there are some aspects of the film that allow themselves to be used as explanations and metaphor for what I believe.

First, Jareth is obviously a symbol of the devil.  He is the villain, holding ransom something that the main character holds dear, in this case an infant, symbolizing life.  And, though he offers her a way of getting the child back, making it through the Labyrinth, he ultimately has no real intention of giving him back.  That is the way the devil works, he makes promises and offers that he does not intend to honor.

And, I love the end scene between Jareth and Sarah, after she has made it through the Labyrinth and the city.  Jareth sings (because he is played by David Bowie, and who doesn’t want to hear David Bowie sing?), “Eveything I’ve done, I’ve done for you” and he later says, “Everything that you wanted I have done. You asked that the child be taken, I took him.  You cowered before me.  I was frightening.  I have reordered time.  I have turned the world upside down, and I have done it all for you!  I am exhausted from living up to your expectations of me.”

That is the lie that the devil tells. He is a master at guilt-tripping and convincing people that they have caused their own circumstances.  And too often too many of us choose to believe him.  But that is one other reason I love the film Labyrinth, what Sarah responds to these claims.  Her next line is quoting from a book she had been rehearsing at the beginning of the film, “Through dangers unknown and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the goblin city.  For my will is as strong as yours and my kingdom as great.”  And then comes the line that she was always forgetting, the line that truly makes the film, in my opinion.  “You have no power over me.”

And as soon as she says that and believes it, the world of the labyrinth begins to fall apart.  Sarah has realized that Jareth has had no real power over her, that the devil has no power over any of us, if we do not let him.  There is always a power greater than he is, and we have direct access to that power.

One other aspect of the film that I really enjoy is what happens in the labyrinth itself.  The whole point of the labyrinth is to delay or distract or detain Sarah long enough so that her time to rescue the child runs out.  And it is perfectly designed to do just that.  I find particularly interesting the character of the Junk Lady.  Sarah runs into this lady in the middle of a junkyard, and she shuffles Sarah into a room that exactly resembles her bedroom and starts giving her little toys and trinkets and things that she had once thought to be important.  This junk lady tries to distract Sarah from the true nature of her quest, from her goal by distracting her with stuff.  And that is what I feel is extremely prescient about this film.  How often do we allow ourselves to be distracted from our true goals in life, our eternal goals, because of the stuff that we want to acquire.

This movie, to me, is more than just a children’s film.  It is a true fairy tale.  A fun, little fantasy story that holds great truths if it is studied well.  This is one of my favorite films from my youth and it continues to be a film that I enjoy.  What are your thoughts to the film?




					
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