FF115 - Pan's Labyrinth

Intro by John Roderick

Civil wars don't have the sweeping tank-battles, sneaky submarine-escapades, or the mass-death by famine that characterize your big Hollywood wars, but it is exactly their intimacy that makes them venues for exceptional cruelty. Nothing brings out the savagery in a population quite like the opportunity to finally, finally punish their next door neighbors who have consistently refused to fertilize their lawns despite the neighborhood covenant, in addition to leaving their Christmas trees up until January 20th, and what better way to express this neighborly consternation than by draining the offender's blood into the gutters with masonry-trowels and basking in the lamentations of their legal spouses?

During normal wars, we can barely muster an abstract hatred for enemy soldiers without drumming up some tinpot xenophobia or F-16-ified neoliberal geopolitical world-building chorus-line, but civil wars enjoy a much lower barrier to entry, needing to appeal only to the blinding, all-consuming hate people feel for the family next door who otherwise completely shares their culture and values, only didn't tweet in favor of their preferred candidate in the Democratic primaries.

The Spanish Civil War of the late 1930s wasn't an ancient conflict between adjacent tribes, nor a social cleansing where everyone who wore glasses and owned a pencil was denounced as a class-enemy and beheaded, nor a fight between an agrarian, slave-owning caste of second-class aristocrats and a mercantile abolitionist-nation of bustling arms-dealers, nor a bureaucratic and industrialized persecution and enslavement of an innocent and bystanding ethnic minority by a complacent middle-class enthralled to a fast-talking nutcase, but it was basically a slapfight between liberals, conservatives, and the Catholic Church over how to govern Spain.

Well, we don't have strong impressions of it in most of the West because we too often either never heard of it or see it through The Sun Also Rises lens, glamorizing it as a time when leftists wore berets and [turtlenecks turtlenecks] and Picasso painted murals and people fighting a lost cause could still retreat into the mountains and sit around a campfire, debating dialectical materialism. In contrast to the dozens of millions that would die in a few short years, it seems almost quaint and kind of boring.

Likewise, the authoritarian isolationism of the subsequent 35 years of Franco's rule, and the peaceful transition to constitutional monarchy that followed, dulled the aftermath into feeling like a song that faded out after the first chorus. But the victory of the nationalist dictatorship of Francisco Franco over the Republican rebels was bloody indeed, and repression and resistance continued long after the nominal end to the conflict, especially along the border with France, where the Pyrenees provided cover for the long tail of the Republican resistance.

This film is set in 1944, long after the attention of the world had shifted elsewhere, set in the unobserved nightmare of the early years of the Franco regime. These are wounds still felt in Spain. Our main character, Ofelia, is a pre-teen protagonist still in the part of childhood where fantasy and reality are hard to distinguish. Her mother has thrown in with stepdad-to-be Captain Vidal, a sociopathic Falangist, tasked with stamping out any straggling Maquis in his bucolic border-region.

His command-post, a large rustic farmhouse, happens to be, as my realtor might put it, labyrinth-adjacent. Ofelia meets a creepy giant fawn in the center of this labyrinth, also echoing my recent real estate transactions, and he sends her on some scary-ass quests. We come to admire her determination and bravery, especially in contrast to the decidedly non-fantastical and oftentimes chickenshit-behavior of the adults in her life. Vidal likes executing people for no reason. Ofelia's mother both fails to protect her and suffers under Vidal's sadism and quackery while also carrying his baby.

The film ends in both triumph and tragedy after a staggering couple of hours of freaky magic, tree-toads, ghouls, torture, chilling violence, and what Ben might describe as game-changing fantasy-imagery. This film thrust director Guillermo del Toro into the public consciousness in a big way (also as Ben would say), and he has gone on to direct some really major films and win tons of awards. It is a powerful mix of cultural, religious, economic, and political ideas and images, and played a kind of Truth and Reconciliation role in Spanish culture, as I would say. It doesn't really care if you are from somewhere else and doesn't take any pains to explain the setting or the symbolism. This works in its favor.

The echoes of the Spanish Civil War are bouncing around the public square again. In many ways, it is a better analogy for our present political world than World War II will ever be. It sometimes feels that we are in a world separated from dark magic by only the thinnest gauze and what we really need is a brave little girl to feed giant exploding bugs to a tree-toad. "You are getting older and you will see that life isn't like your fairy tales! The world is a cruel place and you will learn that, even if it hurts!" Today on Friendly Fire: Pan's Labyrinth.


B: Welcome to Friendly Fire, the war movie podcast that used to believe in a lot of things that we don't believe in anymore. I am Ben Harrison…

A: …, I am Adam Pranica…

J: …, and I'm John Roderick.

B: I was going to do that in a nice lisp Castilian accent, but I lost my nerve.

A: You don't want to be turned into someone’s soundboard!

B: I was like: Are people are going to take great umbrage with my use of a Spanish accent?

The magical world and the real world

A: I get a lot of shit about my resting face from so many people. I have got a bad resting face, but (J: not bad!) I would argue that Sergi López’s resting face is among the most evil we have seen in film. That guy is great casting!

J: He is so evil and when you start the movie and you are like: ”Oh, here is the evil guy!”, he double and triple and quadruples down on it.

A: Sometimes you get a sense of someone's evil just on their own. They can be evil by themselves, but you see his evil reflected in the innocence of his new wife and his new daughter that is brought along. You get this compounding aspect to him that just gets worse and worse. At what point did you know that Ofelia was going to kill him? I was rooting for it right away.

J: The foreshadowing of that little bottle of sedative, which we see Ofelia looking at, it spends a lot of time in the frame, definitely you knew something was coming with that. I can't say that I in the middle of this movie could see where it was going because there are two realities in this movie and you don't know which one is going to win out. You know that world has to win in the film because you can't have that world be the one that is sidelined.

A: I think it says something major about the magical world being the good world and the real world being the evil world.

J: Although the magical world is full of peril!

A: Isn't it also full of hope in a way that the real world isn't whole?

The Faun character

J: But you don't know whether the Faun… The Faun seems like he is really treacherous and monkeying.

A: Yeah, whose side is the Faun on?

J: Right!

B: I kept expecting there to be a twist where where the Faun was using the girl to advance some Faunish aim that we didn't know about yet: ”Oh yeah, I am trapped in this labyrinth and only if you do these tasks three can I escape and take over the world!” or something.

A: And it felt like Faun was going to be end boss at some point!

J: … particularly when he asked for the sacrifice of the child at the end. That was the thing that we had been leading up to this whole time.

B: That is a very biblical idea, though, like: ”Kill the baby here and then I will give you what you want!” - ”Tricks! I didn't actually want you to!”

Ofelia eating the grape

J: Right, but when she eats that grape and the monster kills the two fairies and the Faun says: ”You are out!” you know that this not the end of the Faun. One of the great things about the movie is: the Faun is gone for a long time at a crucial moment, where you are like: ”What is happening? The Faun was all we had!”

A: Yeah, and without without him there is an absence of hope. When we are in the real world for a long time and shit gets worse and worse and worse in those moments you are relieved to see this character that you were so unsure of throughout because he is your only chance at redemption. I was really mad at her for eating that grape, thoguh! Like: ”Come on!”

J: Me too! What the hell, man!

B: Haven’t you read any Greek myths? You know you are not supposed to eat the grape!

J: You had one job!

A: They set her up very interestingly, though, because she goes to bed without dinner. She has got to be hungry. It is not just her wanting to know what a grape tastes like after so long, it is that she was punished and is hungry and I think that is crucial. It is not just precocious kid stuff.

B: The movie doesn't highlight that as much as it maybe would have in the hands of a more unselfisher director. I also read that that scene was in part about the predations of Catholic priests against children. The pale man is more interested in her than the feast being a metaphor about that, which I didn’t pick up.

J: Right, he had this incredible feast, but he was eating the fairies instead.

B: Right, and this came out five years after the spotlight stories broke, so…

J: But it doesn't feel like a contemporary reference. It feels like one that goes back to the Middle Ages.

What audience is this movie for?

B: This movie is in the top 10 of best grossing foreign language films in the US market, but it really doesn't feel like it is geared toward a US audience. It is definitely not giving you the same safety nets story and context-wise that movies that are for a US audience would. Yeah, this is a Spanish movie for Spanish audiences and it is fucking amazing, so it also works for other audiences.

A: It is also a rated R fairy tale, which I think is an interesting choice, right? If you are going for the broadest possible audience, maybe that is an unconventional combination.

Showing the adult themes and putting the kids themes into the background

B: God, it is so much more viscerally brutal than so many of the films we have seen. It is probably in the top three for Friendly Fire films?

J: So many small details that turn the character of the captain into so much deeper of a character than he could have gotten away with. Guillermo Del Toro could have made him a cartoon. But the offhanded comment to the doctor, like: ”If it comes down to it, choose the child over the wife!”, or the fact that when he gives his little torture speech as he pulls his tools out, he gives this little sadistic [speech]: ”By the second tool you are going to be my friend!”

A: … and it is rehearsed because he uses it again!

J: Because we see it again!

B: We never get to see that guy do the speech twice. We have seen that speech in a thousand movies, but seeing the guy do it a second time is so illustrative. He is a very simple person in a lot of ways.

J: Yeah, and it increases his sadistic depravity, it makes you see into him in a way that him constantly pulling out the watch as a reference to his father is also great, but more of a cartoon than just that simple detail.

A: His admonishment of his wife at that dinner in front of the guests I thought was another example of that. I think everyone has felt that way socially, where someone goes right over the top of you publicly and that hurt from someone that is supposed to love you I thought was a moment made for adults to understand.

J: Even more! The detail that slayed me in that moment was when she was like: ”I am going to bed!” and left the table. All the men stood up, but the two women stayed seated and were clearly whispering to each other about her. Some shitty class… (A: … catty bullshit), just like: ”Meh meh meh meh!” and that is in the back of the frame, right? The camera sees it and is meant to see it, but it is not foregrounded, it is not a cut-away close up, and the detail of that was so humane and perceptive.

A: There is a quality about a Disney myth film that tends to obscure all the parts for adults, and this is a weird mirror version of that, where all of the peripheral adult stuff that is just for you and me is the centerpiece and the kid’s stuff is almost at the periphery in a film like this.

J: That is true of modern Disney films, but in the original cartoons you see a lot more….

A: You are talking about Song of the South?

J: Yeah! Cinderella, there is a lot of social brutality in it that they leave out of Frozen because kids today are idiots because everyone gets a medal. Both sides!

A: Is that an Olaf impression? What is that?

J: No, that was just half of an Aspirin and Ben's cola.

B: I prefer an Alka Seltzer in my coffee, if we are making beverages here!

J: Right! Nice call back!

The context of the movie in World War II

B: Let's talk about the context that this film is set in. It is during World War II, but Spain is not really a theater of the conflicts. This is Francoist forces mopping up at the end of the civil war for them, right?

J: A little known side of World War II is the Maquis resistance to Franco, but also to the Germans in the Pyrenees during World War II. We don't hear about it very much, but we see it in a lot of World War II movies because a downed pilot is trying to get to Spain. We see that all the time. Somebody behind enemy lines is just trying to get to Spain and we will often see the pilot make it there…

A: … he hopes the final jump will be the jump home.

J: That is right! …, but we see him arrive at the frontier and a guy with a sloppy hat and a shotgun materializes from behind a tree and we know our pilot is safe, but who that sloppy hatted guy is is a member of the Maquis who were the resistance, and they were fighting Franco. Spain wasn't safe! Spain was supposed to be neutral, but it was a fascist dictatorship.

B: Wasn't Spain also trying to get Germany to give them the Basque country and the parts of southern France that are Catalan? Since Germany was in charge of France, Spain was asking: ”Hey, what about if we took over a little bit more of the border?”

J: Well, that part of France was the one corner of it that the Germans never really occupied. They didn't care about Biarritz! I guess they did. It was part of the Atlantic wall, but down around the mountains there wasn't very much German presence and so Spain was asserting its influence, but the Maquis were not just fighting Franco, they were part of the general allied war effort, and we see so many references to the resistance and I don't think that story has been told very well, except Behold the Pale Horse tells the aftermath story.

B: The Maquis are the guys that are all like: ”We have got to get these damn fascists out of the Pyrenees!”

J: And the thing is: They lost!

A: I think that is your best impression, Ben! That is my favorite!

J: That was a good impression! That was Gregory Peck, right? Just to be clear?

B: Yeah, that is my Peck!

A: You are Peck's bad boy, Ben!

J: But we see the Guardia Civil in this movie, the second movie where we get to see them in just recent memory.

B: Their weird hats!

J: …, but we see them working in conjunction with the army as part of this project to eradicate the rebels.

B: The Phalangists were the National Socialists of Spain, is that correct?

J: Yeah, the Francoist!

B: It is a one party state and the one party is also structured like the military?

J: Well, yeah, right! Just as happens in all fascist governments: The distinction between the military, the police and the government blurs.

A: Hmm, you don't say!

B: One thing that I could not escape thinking about watching this movie was: It has felt dark and desperate in our country a lot lately, and fortunately we are not in the: ”The fascists are mopping up the resistance in the hills!” phase of things.

J: I think you will find it very difficult in America for the fascists to have defeated the rebels. It would have to be a genocide, or I am sorry, a massacre. A genocide suggests that it is a one group that is…

B: There is an ethnic element.

J: Right, whereas here they would have to destroy all of the West Coast, which would be very hard, given that Subarus are nuclear-proof.

B: Yeah, and if they destroy our Subarus we will get in our kayaks or on our mountain bikes and escape via other means.

J: Let me highly recommend the book Ecotopia, not as a good book because it is not, it is a terrible book, but it is a great idea.

A: That is a great plug, John! That is why we do so many advertisements on Friendly Fire!

B: Yeah, there is nothing quite like getting the Roderick endorsement for any product or offering.

J: ”This book will give you lice, but at the same time it is good on the imagination!” But yeah, we don't see in Europe anymore a situation where a regional administrator will have godlike power but there are plenty of places in the world where you would still find that some Commandant Marcos would end up having total authority over a region.

B: Yeah, Captain Vidal really reminds me of the colonel in Rambo III: ”Out here I am in charge! I am the final word on who gets to live and who gets to die!” There is no due process of any kind. He kills that guy and then finds out that he really was hunting rabbits and doesn't care and just uses it as a teachable moment for one of his lieutenants.

A: Everyone's name is Guardia Civil, like Spetsnaz was the name of that soldier in Rambo III.

J: ”Spetsnaz, get in here!”

The Spanish Civil War compared to the American Civil War, 1930s facism

J: But if you look at the Spanish Civil War and contrast it to the American Civil War, for instance, one of the things about the end of the American Civil War is somehow the idea that the union was going to be restored for the most part eliminated the idea of there being a rear guard action on the part of the rebels. You did not see the Confederates retreat into the mountains and wage a guerrilla war against the union for 50 years. They did it in a different way: They never assimilated, they never followed reconstruction.

A: Are the hills in this metaphor 8chan?

J: That is right! The Confederates were ultimately retreated to 8chan, whereas in the Spanish Civil War, it was a civil war and the fascists won, but the resistance was already fighting in the hills, they didn't just lay down their guns and say: ”All right, we give up!” until the 1950s. Eventually all the leaders were captured, this is the Behold the Pale Horse story: All the leaders were captured or driven into France and eventually the revolution ran out of resistance.

A: This may be a dumb question, but as the representative of those who do not know on Friendly Fire I am going to ask it: What did the Spanish expect from their alignment with fascist Germany? Was it about self-preservation by aligning yourself with who you thought would win, or did they truly believe in what they were going for?

J: In the 1930s fascism, just as we see now, became very popular and populist because it seemed like a absolutely viable next form of government. All these ideologies were vying with one another and it wasn't clear not just which would win, but which was the better form of governance for human beings because in a post-industrial world, which was pretty new, how do you make a government of people?

A: So it was a philosophical alignment and not a practical?

J: Both! Franco was the test case for European fascism. Everyone: Mussolini, Hitler, they were all watching Franco to see what it looked like, and they funded the federal side of the war. The Francoists used German arms in the war because the Germans were like: ”Hey, let's test out these Stuka bombers (Junkers Ju 87) and see how they work!” It was like a dress rehearsal.

B: One thing I wondered about with the fascism is that there is rationing and stuff, and if the government is distributing all of the stuff, isn't that more like socialism than capitalist fascism?

J: Well, that is why it was called National Socialism!

A: You got to rebrand it!

J: Well, and that was meant to somewhat undercut the appeal of the communists. Like: ”No, no, no, the Communists say that we are going to have this collective redistribution of wealth, but we are doing that, too!”

B: ”We are going to flatten society!”

A: Scenes like the dinner party where these captains of national socialist industry you are talking about how people are starving in their country while at the same time enjoying eating from the Horn of Plenty on their own dinner table. The hypocrisy of that is fairly pronounced in this film.

B: …, and the complicity of the church in the way that works.

/All right! Mistakes were made.

J: Well, if you think about Mussolini’s story: He was a communist and an intellectual and then his switch to fascism was done really philosophically. In the early days he was a journalist and a writer and was like: ”You know what? The more I think about it, what we really need is a strong hand!”

B: With politics you want to be bringing more and more people into the tent. You can't just condemn somebody for having had a different belief earlier in life!

J: Yeah, that is why we are endorsing… (word missing, 26:23)


J: But I do think we feel now that a lot of those ideologies have have proved themselves in the world, but - talk about both-sides-ing - just as there are plenty of people in the world today that will say: ”Well, communism was not…”

B: … There has never been a real test!

J: ”… there has never been a real test because the Soviets - or the Soulviets - were fascists ultimately, and so communism is still a viable ideology because it didn't get a fair shake!”

A: Because socialism is most commonly coupled with fascism?

J: All authoritarian governments end up being fascist and if you are centrally controlling a lot of aspects of society, what else are you going to do? You got to have some police! The idea that socialism would be a police free…, it is the idealism-socialism. But there are people, and you see them now in Europe, you see them all all over, who would make the case that fascism had never been given a a true shake because it was combined with Hitler's racism.

B: You got to try it, guys! Kumbaya!

J: Yeah, let's roll it out in France and Hungary and Slovakia, or whatever.

A: That email address is xes.nietsneknufxam|ffokcuf#xes.nietsneknufxam|ffokcuf!

J: The people that are arguing for a strong central government and a strong leader, they don't see themselves as Hitler-acolytes, they just want the borders tight and they want… (A: we are not the bad guys, right?)… a big man. Not these little men!

The Vidal character, shooting him so quickly after letting him know his plan failed

B: I think that this movie has some really interesting explorations of that, when the doctor gets caught having Kevorkian-ed the rebel that they have in the toolshed he says to…

A: Yeah, we should really pivot into end of life rights as a conversation here, right on the heels of that conversation we just had!

B: He says to Vidal: ”You are the kind of person that can unquestioningly follow orders, but I am not and most people are not!”

J: What a strong indictment, too!

A: That was awesome!

B: It really is a sick burn on Vidal and the doctor knows he is dead, so he might as well go out with both middle fingers up, I guess!

A: Is Vidal able to comprehend that and take it as the burn that it is? He is almost so single minded throughout the film that his eventual takedown feels less cathartic because is not ever a thinker to the degree that could ever feel that kind of pain from that kind of cut.

B: And I don't think that anybody that is like that, whatever… understand that moment for what it is, either. If they screened this at the White House, there are certain people that would understand the movie, but the main guy would certainly not.

J: He would identify with the captain. The ultimate burn is when he starts to give his soliloquy about how he wants to be remembered, and Mercedes says: ”No, your son will never hear your name and you will not be remembered at all!” and you see the recognition on his face. His whole project, which was to do what his father had done and leave a boy, he was being erased, and that was the only thing he understood!

A: I loved the momentum of that scene! The moments leading up to it and then the eventual death of Vidal was paced perfectly because the film comes up to a point, you register Vidal's recognition that: ”Oh shit, my master plan is blown, my kid is never going to know me!” and he is incapable of feeling that or anything throughout the film and he is instantly killed. I loved it! I thought that was great! We did not give that character a moment to come full circle and to recognize his folly or to have any sort of emotional breakthrough at that moment at all. He was put down in a way that was righteous.

B: … because he is a psychopath he is never going to. He doesn't have the organ in his body that would enable him to change.

J: What was fascinating to hear you say that, is that it is the one place that I wanted more catharsis. I wanted to watch him suffer for two more beats because as we went up to that moment, given the brutality in the rest of this film, and the film's willingness to just deliver unto everyone the harshest take,…

B: … to have the camera linger on the hacksaw going through the guy's leg…

J: …, I thought that the Maquis were going to kill the boy in front of him.

A: When he was handed over, I was like: ”Oh God! We are going to see a baby broken over someone's knee!”

J: Yeah, and I really expected that to happen and when the movie said: "No, the Maquis are going to take this baby and raise him as a rebel or raise him as a boy who never knows his origins!” and then they shoot the captain, it all happened so fast that I was a little bit starved for more resolution, but I know that that is a strength of the movie, not a weakness.

A: Hayden Christensen plays the baby in Pan's Labyrinth, too! When you get to fully get the recognition of when he figures out who he is.

Pan’s Labyrinth 2 having been scraped

B: There actually was a Pan's Labyrinth 2 in preproduction and Guillermo del Toro decided to scrap the project so he could direct Hellboy 2.

A: Interesting choice!

J: Was it going to be Pan's Labyrinth 2 Electric Boogaloo?

B: I think it was going to be Secret of the Ooze (reference to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II).

A: I love Guillermo del Toro’s choices in his career. Why shouldn't he go do Hellboy 2? He is one of our best creators, our best directors!

J: Was Hellboy 2 good?

A: It doesn't matter! He is a guy that is just as capable of making Pan's Labyrinth as Blade 2!

J: What if he went into porn? Would you still feel that way?

A: Yeah, I am sure he would make great pornography. It would be amazing! Imagine the hand jobs when the hands have eyeballs in them!

J: Guillermo,, if you are listening, why not pivot to porn right now? We could use a little bit more art in porn.

B: His next project is Pinocchio, scheduled to come out in 2021.

J: Porn!

A: I bet that is going to be so scary. Oh my God! That nose-fucking, though!

Special effects, how this movie is so scary

J: The special effects obviously are incredibly interesting. I am not sure if they hold up and I don't know what you would have done with CGI that would have been better. The Faun was very strangely built.

A: I think the effect that works is Doug Jones as an actor, is the effect that works. There is a man in there as both that character and the pale-man-eyeball-hands-guy is magical to me because there is something so unnatural about that performance, it just looks alien physically.

J: You could have made the Faun look slightly more human or more goatlike or something, but he really looks like almost like a praying mantis.

A: Yeah, for me there was an uncanny valley-ness of it that worked in its favor. You know that is a guy and it is a combination of CGI, too, and it just made me uncomfortable in a way that was very effective.

J: The pale man, certainly. I don't know how you could make that scarier!

A: Yeah, that is the stuff of nightmares for sure!

J: His arm-waddle is the thing that really sold it to me!

B: Yeah, when he starts moving and all those little bits start flopping around, it just makes your skin crawl!

A: There is something nightmarish about the slowness of a chase, too and the way the pale man chased her toward the chalked run door (?) was: There was an inevitability to that that made it all the more tension filled. It was great!

B: Did the hourglass add anything? I feel like it would have been just as scary if she had run for the door and it had closed and we had no idea why.

J: It just added to the fairytale-ness of it, I think. I feel like Ofelia at the center of this movie… We have seen it a couple of times where a child is at the center of a movie, and we have seen amazing performances by young people, but Ofelia has to deal with so much and she is so lovely. You cannot help but fall in love with her at the beginning of the film and she does that amazing thing, which is you continue to be in love with her, you fall more deeply in love with her with every passing moment of the film until you are so invested in her and each new trauma, you bear the full weight of it!

A: Her internal logic to this whole thing is really effective because you begin from the premise that she is a believer in the stories that she reads, so of course she gives herself over to the idea of the Faun and the Faun’s mission. But also: She is not particularly good at the missions, for example putting the root under the bed of her mother: She gets caught doing that, she is not good at this stuff in a way that a kid wouldn't be, and I thought that was a really great way to shade her character, she feels very real in that way. She is not acing every mission the Faun is giving her in a way that made the entire film feel like it was in danger of failing.

B: And she is also not political. The whole setting is about this existential conflict between the Republicans and the Fascists and she really is way too young to have an informed opinion about it and the film doesn't even try to make her try to have an opinion, it is just that kids have a gut understanding of right and wrong and she is trying to do right by people.

J: And as the movie progresses her transformation, and the one that connects the two worlds, is what begins as a fascination with fairies and intrigue about the Faun because she loves that aspect of the world, she is a magical realist. As the film goes on, we more and more realize that the Faun and the labyrinth are all she has left, as one after another thing that matters to her is stolen, and that is the only reason that the two halves of the movie belong together as much as they do. It is not just a fantasy world that she is living in. Because the Faun does not care at all about the revolution. The Faun never references the war, doesn't care about her dad, isn't interested, doesn't even perceive it.

A: The Faun is about reinstalling the princess only and doesn't even regard the world that he is visiting in order to make that happen, really.

J: Right, which could be off-putting, it is what makes the two sides of the movie feel unrelated until you realize that it all hinges on she needs to go into the labyrinth and that is why his potential evil, his desire to sacrifice the boy, her refusal, it is what gives it all that additional weight.

B: But that is coming back to that: ”Kids understand fairness and right and wrong!” in this inherent way that grounds the movie in a reality.

J: That is why you on this podcast grounded, Ben!

B: Oh, thank you! That is the nicest thing anybody has ever said to me on Friendly Fire!

Moment of pedantry about a train horn

B: Do you guys want to hear a moment of pedantry from somebody complaining about this movie on the Internet?

J: It is so hard to imagine what it could be!

A: It must feel really good to complain about this movie.

B: I found a train pedant in the IMDB goof section for Pan's Labyrinth!

J: Yeah!

A: All right, I will retract that comment. I am always about train pedants!

J: Me too! What was wrong with that locomotive?

B: During the scene of the villagers coming to the mill to receive their food rations, a modern locomotive horn can be heard in the background.

J: Oh, it is a horn pedant!

A: A subset of train pedantry is train horn pedants.

J: I thought it was going to be about that awesome scene where the rebels had blown up the railroad tracks and the train crashed.

A: That was a great looking setup.

B: What do you do about that? Can you dig a train out of dirt like that and get it back going again?

A: I think you just finish the job and you bury it there.

J: No, if you can raise a sunken ship and repair it and put it back to see, you can pull a locomotive out of the dirt, as long as the boiler didn't explode, and it didn't look like the boiler exploded.

B: Yeah, the boiler looked intact.

A: That is one train that is not running on time.

J: Oh my God! Why do you say things like that in the voice of Colonel Trautmann (from Rambo)?

A: Better bring a good supply of body bags!

B: It is a Colonel Trautmann moment for Videl, right? He got his jacket over his shoulders in that scene…

A: That is the usual suspects moment where he figures it out: ”If they didn't steal anything from the train, it must be a diversion!” and then shit is popping off.

The Pedro and Mercedes characters

A: I understand I am probably feeling it the way I was meant to feel it, but the frustration of that lock not being busted even after the fact in order to obscure the provenance of the key? Come on, guys! You are really hanging Mercedes out to dry here by not doing that!

J: Mercedes’ brother Pedro is not the sharpest tack.

A: He is not, especially because Mercedes so clearly is! She is the bad ass of the film. If I am going to be pedantic for a moment, the way she wraps her knife in her clothes seems like the knife would fall out all the time.

J: It felt to me like a very Basque thing, or a reference to a mountain girl thing, where it is like: ”Where do I keep my knife? Wrapped in my waistband! You never know when you are going to need a paring knife!”, and I don't mean mountain girl like Jerry Garcia's girlfriend, I mean mountain girl like…

B: … fascist stabbing kind.

A: I was very satisfied when Chekhov's knife was finally brandished and used…

J: Is this a Star Trek reference?

A: … in the way that it was on Videl? When she is able to cut out of her ropes and give Vidal the Joker cheek, that was very satisfying, right?

J: The Joker cheek was great, but she stabs him hard in the shoulder and the chest and somehow missed his hard or his neck.

B: He does a lot of running around after that. (J: He sure does!) I would be a real baby about that all those stabbing wounds. I would not be able to do my own stitches on my cheek. I would not be chasing anyone into the labyrinth.

Stiching your mouth back together

A: Lots of wince moments in this movie: The stitching, you are right Ben, that was definitely one of them. The drinking of the shot and seeing it ooze through the gauze was another one.

J: I definitely spent quite a bit of time thinking about whether or not I would be able to stitch my own mouth back together.

A: I think of the three hosts of Friendly Fire you are the most likely one to be able to do that, I think!

J: My first thought was that you would need to do a better job if you intended there not to be a scar or if you wanted to minimize the scar and he seemed to be doing it to really give himself a Joker scar there.

A: If you don't stitch up your cheek, would you just have a big mouth forever? Would it heal that way?

J: I think you would have real problems. I think that would be bad. Make your mouth two inches wider on either side? If you could do that, that would be a body modification thing!

B: Yeah, there would be people with forked tongues and that running around every downtown on the West Coast!

A: No explanation for Willem Dafoe’s mouth. That is just a natural thing, he didn't he didn't use a knife for that.

J: Way to get a slag on William Dafoe and slip it in!

A: Not slagging Willem Dafoe, one of the best mouths in the game!

B: He is canceling his donation to maximumfun.org right now!

A: I love Willem Dafoe! Best in the business.

J: Top ten best Willems!

Production value, color palette

B: One thing about the film that I didn't love, and something that we have criticized in several films, is how Instagram-y the color palette felt. It really felt like a lot of scenes were probably shot super flat and then they just turned the dial as hard to the blue as they could, when they were outside in the rain or whatever, or just warmed the colors up within an inch of credibility every time they are in the forest with the partisans.

A: It felt like myth-making technique to me, though, in a way that I enjoyed and liked.

J: But as Ben is saying, it wasn't just when the monsters were there. It also happened in reality!

A: It was consistent.

B: Yeah, it really started to bother me toward the end. The last 15 minutes of this movie take place at night outside in the dark, but the doll's shirt is bright red where the blood has soaked through it and then everything else is palerous (?) and blue.

J: It did get a little 300 there!

A: There is a well at the end and everything, huh?

Is the Vidal character the main character?

A: I know Ofelia is ostensibly the main character in this film, but I think you could really make the case that Vidal is. Ben and I have talked about this before: Could you rescore the Batman film and make the Joker the protagonist and Batman the antagonist just by changing the musical cue?

J: Are you both-sides-ing The Dark Knight?

A: I would never do this here, but what I am…

B: Not The Dark Knight, the original Batman, John! The theory is that the Joker is a man of the people and Batman is a billionaire arms dealer that goes and beats up petty thugs at night for fun, and the Joker is destroying all of the symbols of wealth, like the art museum and he is adulterating all of the cosmetics in town and stuff. He is the underclass fighting back against the the oligarchs. Not our original take, but our theory is to just change the score and you got a whole different movie on your hand!

A: By referring to that, I am not attempting to switch up who is the protagonist and antagonist of this film…

J: Screen time!

A: … in terms of screen time and weight of character, you could really make the case that Vidal is the main character of this film, and I think it would be okay if you saw him that.

B: I don't know, because he doesn't change. He doesn't undergo any character change. He is single-minded until he has got a bullet in his brain.

A: He is given so many interesting scenes, though. I don't disagree with you at all, Ben, but so many memorable scenes: The constant shaving, the tinkering with the watch that his father intended to be dead, he can't allow that watch to be dead, he keeps it going, the slashing of the mirror with his razor blade,… As much as I hated the Vidal character, I really found him interesting and compelling.

J: I feel like that is all examples of just brilliant filmmaking. His relationship to that watch is never fully elucidated, but it is throughout the movie and you cannot but wonder about his relationship to his father, whether that relationship with his father is what made him into a monster - it clearly did - but the slashing of his own throat in the mirror gives that character so much complexity, if not depth. All of those are…

A: You are never on his side, but at least in that moment, you are like: ”All right, he does hate himself and that is good!”

J: Yeah, I don’t understand why more film makers don't watch this movie and take those cues: Give us the viewer a couple of things that make us feel smart, a couple of things that make your movie smart!

A: That fastidiousness of him physically is played out in so many other scenes: The constant shaving, the idea that every hair on his head is perfectly in place is just another version of him keeping all of the food and medicine neatly organized in a barn that is behind lock and key. Every part of his life is so controlled, and then you introduce the messiness of a pregnant wife and the daughter that she is bringing with him. That is a conflict that begins and just never ends until he is dead.

J: Even the way he shoots every person that presents any kind of problem. He just puts a gun to them and shoots them!

A: It is all of the threads that are sticking out from the sweater, he is clipping them. That one guy in the very beginning,… God, one of the most brutal scenes is not breaking a wine bottle over that guy's face, but using the flat end of it…

J: … to smash his nose in. It is awful!

A: And the idea that that was maybe a tale of mistaken identity because there were rabbits in that guy's bag. There are no loose ends to that guy's life.

J: Including every time they fight the rebels in the forest! They then go around and coup de grâce everyone in a way that just feels completely methodical, but also: No prisoners, no loose ends to tie up, walk around and give everybody a bullet!

B: No due process! But also the train scene is a great example of the fact that from a military standpoint he is actually not that great. He totally misses that he is being drawn away from his base by a fake attack and that is maybe my favorite part of his character. He is so brutal that he is dangerous in every scene, but he is also trackable, he has serious blindspots.

A: His need to tie up every loose end is is what ends him.

J: It is another example of how good this script is and how good its realization is: The rebels are not portrayed as especially noble, but also that is not played for laughs. The rebels are not made to be especially clumsy either. The way the army is presented as bloated and not that good: No one is that good in this movie, but it is never made ridiculous.

B: Righteousness is never equated with effectiveness in this movie.

Ofelia’s story ending within the realm of the magic, not the real world

A: How satisfied were you that the end of Ofelia's story occurred within the realm of the magic versus the real world? It is not like she is going to end the war with her activity, but if there is one part of the film that I was a little let down by was that that was where the film ended instead of in the real world. We got to know a lot of real world characters that are summarily forgotten by the time Ofelia's story ends, and it is not just because they are dead. We know there are more of them out there. I guess it only lends credence to the idea that this is a myth film and that is what it is about, and it is not a war film.

J: It hurt me, actually. I didn't want her to die. I didn't want this all to be a fantasy of hers, I wanted her to physically, corporally walk into the underworld. I did not want the passage from the real world to the underworld to be a passage undertaken by the spirit, rather than by the body, even though…

B: Tou wanted a blue portal!

J: I did! I wanted her to ascend to heaven on the back of a steed from the Dome of the Rock. I did not want her… Even though at the beginning of the movie she actually walks out of the underworld into the light and that character dies and we know her spirit will be reincarnated in a person above the world that will come back down, but the fact that she made that journey as a soul rather than as a body made it feel like maybe this was all a dream. It definitely was played for tears. It was a little bit of like the little match girl where we see her die and and it breaks your heart, but she goes on to living in her kingdom for all eternity.

A: To sit at the left hand of her dead mother.

J: But that means that all those people down there are not really under the earth, but they are souls and this is happening in a soul realm or a heaven realm, which felt less pagan and the pagan-ness of that story was key. It is located in the forest, the fairies are bugs, the Faun smells like dirt, so…

B: It doesn't smell like frankincense?

A: This story up until that point is so good at jacking up the stakes that by concluding it in an almost stakes-free manner, she is going to be fine forever because she gets to go live in the spirit world, unfortunately undercuts all of the tension that we felt throughout the entire film. At least that is how I felt.

B: I want to inject something that may complicate your feelings on that, which is a quote from Kierkegaard that Del Toro cites as part of his inspiration for the film. (A: Here we go!) It goes: ”The tyrant dies and his rule is over. The martyr dies and his rule begins!” (A: Okay!”) Does Ofelia have a martyr role in this film?

J: If there is martyrdom, and I imagine that there would be, Ofelia’s death could be used by the rebels to influence popular opinion: ”Look how evil the monsters are! They killed this 11 year old girl!”, but we never see that, nor is it even implied.

B: Right, you have to go there in your own mind as you walk out of the theater.

A: Ben, was the story of Pan's Labyrinth 2 Ofelia just sending the Faun out to fight for the allies?

J: It was Ofelia being installed as princess and gradually becoming a fascist, gradually realizing that her underworld power gave her unlimited authority.

A: Oh, that is dark!

B: Becoming corrupted by royalty?

J: Right!

A: The conclusion of this film feels so final. I am really surprised that there was ever even the idea of a sequel!

John’s first visit to Spain shortly after the end of the Franco regime

J: I went to Spain for the first time in 1988, and really that was only 10-15 years after the end of Franco and you saw a lot of it still. All the middle aged men you met had grown up under fascism and there still was a lot of that ”pants pulled up to right under their nipples”-kind of old Spain…

A: … and a resting Peck face?

J: Yeah, a lot of Boules-playing and sense that the city should be clean and run in a certain way, and I looked hard for some kind of media that I could consume that would explain to me what Spain had been like and what I was seeing in the in the residue of Franco. It was only 15 years! 15 years ago right now was the mid-2000s, it wasn't that divorced from ye olden times, but boy, there wasn't a lot of depiction of it. I still can't really picture what it was like because it wasn't behind an Iron Curtain. It was a fascist government that survived for 35 years in the world. I would be really curious to see a Pan's Labyrinth 2, just to see what is going on in that forest. She is just yelling at mushrooms!

A: Guillermo del Toro doesn't shy away from making sequels, so maybe he will circle back around and do it.

J: Hellboy: Pan's Labyrinth 2. What about that?

B: All I can find about this sequel is that it is called 39-93. It starts in 1993 and then there is something that happened in 1939 that is relevant to the story and it is set with the Spanish Civil War in the background.

J: Interesting!

B: There are ideas out there. Oh, here is another quote: One of the writers is interviewed in comingsoon.net. His name is Sergio Sanchez. Right now they are reopening many graves from the civil war and many people who disappeared and now have enough time has passed that they are reopening the graves and there are a lot of people who can finally find their ancestors and stuff, so the story deals with that.


Reviewing the movie

A: Have we crossed over into the magical realm of reviewing the Friendly Fire film we have discussed? I think so! One object that stuck out to me, and I am sure you guys too, is the Chalk that Ofelia uses to draw the doorway into the spirit realm and also the exit. It actually is not a one-time use item either. I thought that was neat, and so on a scale of one to five pieces of chalk we will rate 2006’s Pan's Labyrinth. I wish I had seen this film in the theater. I don't know if you guys did?

J: I did not! I have never seen it before!

A: Yeah, this is my first time. This film blew really big when it was in the theater. I remember it was all anyone talked about for a long time, and the way I reject many things that are popular, for whatever reason I didn't participate and I wish I had. I think this would have been a really fun movie to see projected big. I think whether or not you can get with its magical realism is going to be whether or not you like this film. Personally, I was able to give myself over to it pretty quickly. I liked this world that Guillermo del Toro constructed, even though if you were to describe the film just to a friend, it sounds insane. What is with the labyrinth being right next door to Vidal’s fort? How come he never goes into it ever? There is disbelief you must suspend in order to enjoy a film like this, but I think there is a certain amount of that you need to get with to watch any film. I don't think this film is particularly unique in that way, but you know going into Pan's Labyrinth that it is going to be magical and you are there to experience that. Anyway, I really loved it, and I loved especially the little girl who played Ofelia, Ivana Baquero, a great child actor, and I think the entire cast is rounded out wonderfully. Every character in the film has their moment to shine in a way that just doesn't feel like character service. I think the doctor is one of those guys: He sprinkled throughout judiciously and then he gets his big moment that made me feel very proud for his character and for the actor playing him. There are many examples of that in the film. The story in totality I was riveted to. I really wanted to know what would happen. Unfortunately I was motivated by the rage that I felt toward Vidal. I don't know if that was a healthy feeling to just: ”I am in it to watch him die! How is he going to die? Give me that blood!” That is what I was in it for, in a way that maybe Guillermo del Toro was not intending that to be my reason to stick around in it. But I thought most of what he did was effective and effecting. Outside of its ending… I have to admit the magic of the ending I found a little bit unsatisfying. I wish that the final scene took place in the real world in a way that would have felt more satisfying, but I think for that reason I am going to give it a strong score, but not a perfect score. 4.5 pieces of chalk! IOne question I have for you, John, is: At what age would you show a child this film?

J: Yeah, I wondered it a lot. I actually googled: ”Can I show my eight and a half year old this?”

A: So much of this would be great for a kid. I feel like there is a television cut of this film that could be great.

J: What I got off of the Internet was: ”Do not show this film to your kid!” They said that a very sophisticated 15 year old could learn a lot here.

A: I am having nightmares about pale man right now!

J: Yeah, right. An eight year old would just be like: ”What is happening?”, and also: It is an 11-year old girl that all this is visited upon, and that is for adult audiences, I think.

B: When I have a kid, I will wait until they are at least 9 years old to check this out.

J: Your kid is obviously going to be very gifted, Ben!

A: Your kid is going to be a 30 year old 7-year old right off the bat.

B: I take that as a compliment that you guys think that I am capable of generating somebody that is precocious.

J: Maybe your kid can watch this when they go away to tennis camp. This will be their tennis camp movie.

B: I really love this movie and I don't have the problem with the end that you do, Adam. I think that for me it is really effective that it doesn't give you exactly what you want, and I will even say that I have some personal discomfort with the depiction of being elevated to royalty being the ideal outcome in Western media. That feels like a very problematic phenomenon that pervades our culture and I tend to really react badly to those things, but because of the character and the time and the place in this film it felt like the right way for her to conceive of her own end, whether that is something that really happens to her or if it is something that her imagination provides her as her brain shuts down.

A: Jeez! That is some dark shit! Wow!

B: I mean, you don't know, right? I think it is intentionally ambiguous whether she is dead at the end of the movie or not.

A: Some people see a white light. Other people see three thrones, one of them unoccupied.

B: John sees a blue portal!

J: Right, it is the three throne theory!

B: I don't know that I have a strong feeling which of those interpretations I agree with. I like that it is ambiguous and it is a really challenging movie, it is one of the hardest watches I have had in the Friendly Fire project, but I think it is really worth watching, and it having been a super-popular movie at the time is a credit to what an amazing accomplishment it is. So I will go ahead and give it 5 chalks.

A: Wow!

B: Big fan!

J: 5 chalks!

A: Big score!

J: There is a big gulf between 4.5 chalks and 5 chalks!

A. That is true!

J: Even 3.5 chalks to 4 chalks is not as big because it is like a Richter scale thing.

A: It is! It is compounding interest!

B: It is like atmospheric pressure: It just gets more and more! How about you, John? Did you like the movie?

J: You know, there was so much to like about it. I really loved the internal geography of it. We are at a mountain camp and we have a real sense of how the mountain camp is laid out and the specificity, not just of this period of post-Civil-War-mid-World-War-II frontier place, the specificity of the pregnant second wife of the captain being the mother of our protagonist… everything! If you imagine him sitting at his typewriter and writing this script, just the inventiveness and the bravery, the willingness to not make any of this easy and then the success of actually situating us there and making it not necessary that you know anything about the Spanish Civil War to be into the film. The Rebels, although they were fairly realistically depicted, also were a legend of the rebels, too, but again not particularly noble either. All of it is so gifted. I watch a lot of these movies wondering what the filmmaker is doing and why, and I don't let filmmakers off the hook when they are lazy. I just don't like it. If you are going to review a movie, you have to review it as the product of a mind and the more minds involved generally, the less good the movie is, and this is just a singular creation. But there was stuff that drew me out and most of it is just in the way the mysterious world was art-directed, for lack of a better thing. The bug that turns into the fairy: We never really zoom in on the fairy and see their face, it is never clear…

A: We see their heads being bitten off.

J: We do, but are those fairies grotesque or are they beautiful? Certainly Ofelia doesn't recoil at them. If he had wanted to make the fairies beautiful, he could have. He chose not to. If he wanted to make the Faun more natural he could have, and he chose not to. So me wishing for something different is maybe just me wanting to make my own movie.

A: We finally got there with you!

B: So if you are listening and if you have $50 million to give John…

A: That has been your damage the whole time! You got to make your own movie!

J: I believe that I should be the director of all these films and I would have done a better job. That is the problem of the lay film critic. You think you could do better! And as somebody who has made some creative products in life, I make the mistake of thinking that my knowledge transfers. All you have to do is know the difference between a good Tamborine track and a bad Tamborine track to know also how to make a fairy in a Spanish apocrypha.

A: Those are compatible skills!

J: But I am going to give it 4.5 pieces of chalk. The only thing that keeps it out of 5 pieces of chalk is maybe what you are saying, Adam, about the fact that if I were to describe this movie to someone who hadn't seen it, the fact that I would have to go like: ”No, no, no, no, no, this sounds terrible and it is great! There is just enough in there that causes you to question it a little bit!”

A: That feels like a degree-of-difficulty aspect to it. This film rises above its story on paper.

J: It really is! Let me ask you this: If he had stabbed her and she had fallen on the edge of the well and her blood had dripped down and it had not… What that would suggest was that she was not an innocent, which is bad, that was set up, but if she had just died and her arm hadn't fallen in the well and her blood had pooled on the side of the well and not dripped down, it would make this movie 1000 times more horrible, but would it be better?

A: I like to fantasize about all the ways that the films we have watched could be more horrible! I think that is an interesting thought experiment. I don't know!

Who is your guy?

A: ”Where are our guys?” is a good question to ask about now.

B: My guy is the Faun because I believe in second chances, just like the Faun!

A: Wow! All right. I guess a guy can't be constrained by the corporeal world. Fantasy guy is a type of guy! That is Ben’s guy!

B: Pick from whatever!

A: Yeah! All right.

B: How about you, Adam? Did you have a guy?

A: I am going to go way in the other direction here. Mercedes is rugged and as an embedded spy she must maintain the coldness that ensures her survival, and yet she is always packing that knife. I thought about her life so much when I watched this movie: Every time she wakes up she is wondering whether or not it is the day that she is going to die or that she ends up killing Vidal, and you can interpret her wrapping of that knife in a couple of ways: Is that a self-defense knife that she will use if she has to, or is she keeping it ready for murder? Either thing you decide about that knife is satisfying and I imagined both of those as being true. I really love her relationship with everyone in the kitchen, that scene where Vidal says his coffee is burned she goes back into the kitchen and she is like: ”All right, guys! He didn't like the coffee. Everyone knows the score. Vidal cannot be satisfied by anything, this fucking asshole. Time to remake the coffee!” I love how she can both be friendly and conspiratorial with people who work with her, but also totally a different kind of conspiratorial with the Maquis, and I really liked how multidimensional her character had to be in order to survive. Really great character and great performance by Maribel Verdú. So she is my guy!

B: Good guy!

A: Who is your guy, John?

J: There were a lot of good guys in here. When the locomotive blew up and the captain ran out to visit it, he was talking to the engineer, or the fireman probably, or the brakeman, whoever, and he was like: ”What did they steal?” and the guy's attitude was just like: ”They didn't steal anything!” and he was so groucho about it, like: ”Yeah, I don't know man. They didn't steal anything, so I don't know! Take that with you!”

A: It was neat meeting someone in this setting who did not give Vidal the respect that he was used to and the fear that he was used to. That was a character that just didn't know him.

J: Right! It felt like because he worked for the railroad he is really the only townsman we meet, a regular Spaniard who was just like: ”Eh, yeah. What can I tell you?”, but he is not my guy. I liked him.

A: Oh, fake-out guy!

J: Yeah! The two bidis (?), the two women who were obviously part of the respected class, who were totally shitty mocking our mom I felt like were great characters together, the two of them, the Crones, the Harpies, but they are not my guy. My guy was Mandrake-baby.

A: What?

J: Mandrake-baby crying in a puddle of milk because Mandrake-baby was the was the moment in this movie where I was like: ”Okay, all in!” Mandrake-baby was such a good baby, sounded like a baby, acted like a baby, but it was a Mandrake root, and Mandrake is a hallucinogen. It is a narcotic root used in ye olden times…

A: So is the mom micro-dosing Mandrake in order to feel better?

J: Yeah, the Mandrake-baby was taking the sickness out of the mom and the Mandrake-baby needed a little bit of blood, a milk bath and a little blood every day to do its job, and its job was just to be a baby.

A: Would you know Mandrake smell by entering a room?

J: I don't think so. It is just a root. It is not like the Mandrake-baby was ground up or anything.

A: Well, Vidal smelled the Mandrake and thought it smelled awful.

J: Yeah, I am not sure. I feel like…

B: That was probably the milk because it had been there for a while.

J: Bad milk! But then the Mandrake-baby gets thrown on the fire and I mourned that Mandrake-baby.

A: It is another squirm scene in this film.

J: What a terrible way for a Mandrake-baby to die. So, I will always ride for Mandrake-baby.

A: You learn this in the Eagle Scouts: If you burn a wet-with-milk Mandrake your smoke will be dark and it will attract attention and ensure your rescue, right? Weren’t you an Eagle Scout, Ben? Is that true?

B: I never earned my Mandrake-baby patch, though!

A: That should be our pin: Mandrake-baby patch!

B: Too late! Far too late!

A: Yeah, it is going to be next year!

J: But in the style of a Boy Scout patch!

A: Is Mandrake-baby patch the name of the children's music band that the guy from the President of the United States of America is doing?

B: Should we pick what our next movie is, guys?

J: Wait a minute! There is a quote in the Bible that says:…

B: Oh yeah, I forgot! Bible study, and then we pick the next movie!

J: … that says: ”Let us get up early to the vineyards. Let us see if the vine flourish where the tender grape appear and the pomegranates bud forth. There will I give thee my loves. The Mandrakes give a smell and at our gates are all manner of pleasant fruits, new and old, which I have laid up for thee, oh my beloved!” Where the fuck was that quote, Guillermo del Toro? Quoting Kierkegaard!

A: The Mandrake produces yellow berries that smell fruity but are more similar in flavor to tomatoes, and its leaves smell much like fresh tobacco.

B: It is in the Nightshade family!

J: Yeah, Mandrakes are used in magic and witchcraft. According to the legend, when the root is dug up its screams and kills all who hear it.

B: What?

A: Wow!

B. Fuck! See, I would have known this if I had paid attention in Eagle Scouts.

J: There are ways to dig up a Mandrake root so that it doesn't scream.

B: You have been warned by Friendly Fire, listeners!

J: You know how you do it? You dig around the Mandrake and then you tie a dog to it and then you run away from the dog and when the dog chases you it pulls up the root, but then the dog dies.

A: Oh no!

J: This is how bad witchcraft is, you guys!

B: Wow! I feel like a solid 30% of our listeners just dumped us from their support because you badmouth witchcraft, but should we pick our next movie?

J: I think the half of our listeners who are conservative Christians are like: ”Finally they come out against witchcraft!”

Choosing the next movie

A: Does the 120-sided die scream when you roll it? Let's find out!

J: All right, here we go!

B: I want you to roll it good, John. I want a banger to close it with because I want to get those numbers up.

J: Okay, here we go! 49! 7 x 7! Lucky seven times seven! 49!

B: Shit, fuck, that is lucky seven squared man! This is a World War I film set in Arabia, 1962, directed by David Lee.

J: No way!

B: Lawrence of Arabia!

J: That is a big one!

B: Well done, my friend! Well done, indeed! Good roll!

A: You guys are so excited. I am the host of Friendly Fire that has not seen this movie, so this will be my first time.

B: I haven't seen it either!

J: What?

A: Whoa! What?

J: Wow, so now, listen: There are times in the calendar where the various remaining Cineramas, or Cinesrama around the West will show Lawrence of Arabia in Cinerama. If you can, go see it in Cinerama because that is how it was made to be seen. It is epic in scope!

A: I plan on seeing it in feel around.

J: Heck, yeah, I will show it to you in feel around.

B: The last thing I saw in Cinerama was Star Trek Picard with Adam.

J: Ugh, you guys are such fucking dorks!

A: Wow, big up, guys! I have heard that Lawrence of Arabia is the Rambo III of the Peter O'Toole oeuvre.

J: I hate you!


J: Please give to maxfun.org/donate to support.

B: It is just maxfunkenstein.sex, that is all they need to know.

A: Yeah, that is it, the one place!

J: Support our show. We love making it for you and your generous donations help us offset the cost of hating one another.

A: That is true. Our affection for each other can be bought and only you can make that happen.

B: We really appreciate it! So we will leave it with Robs from here, and a reminder: Robs wouldn't have a job if you didn't support the show, so keep him employed also!

J: Support Robs jobs!

A: You are going to do your famous sign-off, Ben?

B: Oh, yeah. So: For John Roderick and Adam Pranica, I have been Ben Harrison. To the victor go the spoiler alerts!

R: Friendly Fire is a Maximum Fun podcast, hosted by Ben Harrison, Adam Pranica, and John Roderick. The show is produced and edited by me, Rob Schulte. Our theme music is War by Edwin Starr, and it is courtesy of Stone Agate music and our logo Art is by Nick Ditmore. Friendly Fire is a podcast that is made possible by the support of our listeners like you. To make sure that Friendly Fire continues, visit maximumfun.org/join and pledge your support. By doing so, you will gain access to our monthly porkchop episodes as well as all the other MaxFun bonus content. If you want to chat about our podcast on various forms of social media, just search for our discussion groups or use the hashtag #friendlyfire. You can find Ben on Twitter @benjaminahr, Adam is found @cutfortime, John is @johnroderick, and you can find me at @robkschulte. Thanks!

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