Thirty five years ago on June 27, 1986, a Jim Henson film was released that, to this day, I watch on a weekly basis. Not because it is scary or full of gore and horror but because of the mere beauty and beguiling mystery it has. For years, I have loved Labyrinth with everything that the child in me possibly can, although as an adult, I see it quite differently. Not as horror per se but as more of a mystery that can never be truly solved, a child taken and reunited, and a fantasy that changes the life of one girl. So not only do I want to brag this movie up but I want to delve deeper into the Labyrinth, see what there is too see and remember what its like to live in that fantasy world where nothing is as it seems to be anymore.
Jim Henson has brought us some of the most wonderful, beautiful, and captivating films to ever grace the silver screen. His work is known all over the world. But to begin talking about Labyrinth, we have to truly understand imagination, and when I begin to even think about that, this man comes to my mind instantly. This movie only works because it’s his creation. I truly believe that, with anyone else running the show, Labyrinth wouldn’t be half as fascinating and strangely beautiful as it is.
Is this film considered horror? In its own way, the diving into the fantasy of the unknown is pretty scary. Just the goblins alone, never mind the other strange and often curious creatures popping up everywhere, makes this film a horror movie.
As a child watching Labyrinth, I felt an instant connection to the main character, Sarah, a young girl in the prime of her youth with the innocence and imagination of a child. Desperate to keep it that way, she fills her room with with books about the Goblin King, one called Labyrinth, and even little bookends that look like goblins. Everything she sees is quite simply her childhood screaming desperately inside her, begging to stay alive. Thrown into the life of an adult is something Sarah doesn’t want. Due to a baby brother circumstance, she makes a wish to the Goblin King to take the little one away. In the end, her obsession takes form in the most marvelous way. Huge props to Jennifer Connelly for bringing Sarah to life.
I have so many favorite moments that involve the Goblin King aka Jareth. First of all, he is portrayed by David Bowie, whose voice and demeanor make the character work perfectly. The first time they meet is the moment where I instantly fell in love with him.
From there on, Labyrinth is an adventure into a fantasy world that only Jim Henson could create. There are so many charming creatures, and all of them have something unique and different to offer to the storyline set before us. We are given an opportunity to delve into the mind of a child on the brink of leaving behind everything she knows and loves about fairy tales—whether she knows it or not—changes that become imminent and unsettlingly clear the more we get into the film.
Everything is not as it seems, which becomes abundantly clear to Sarah as she tries to rescue her brother and Jareth the Goblin King does everything he can possibly do to stop her from succeeding. There are some awesome music numbers and memorable moments where you can say with certainty, “No one but David Bowie could pull that off.” As a adult, I see times where I wonder if Jareth loves Sarah in his strange but beguiling manner. He had a fascination with her and she with him. In the end with the never ending labyrinth of stairs on the brink of rescuing her brother, we find out that he himself would do anything for her… including changing the world. She asked him to take her brother and he did, but he also knows that in the end, he can’t be with her. If she grows up, he won’t be in her life. He is the epitome of her imagination in human form, begging to not be forgotten. That idea is not only disturbing but also extremely sad.
We witness her grow up right in front of our eyes, and we get to see the sad moment in time when all of those creatures she loves so much have to say goodbye, even though she knows that, every once in awhile, she will see them again when she needs them. They will all be a part of her in some form another, but like all of us, she has to grow up. The Goblin King is that exact childhood in a form of a sentient being, something she could see and touch and witness, a manipulation to keep her childhood forever encaged. After the successful rescue of her brother, there is no choice but to move on and let go.
On the 35th anniversary of Labyrinth, let’s remember the beauty of our childhoods and what imagination is truly like. This beautiful gem reminds us to believe in goblins and all of the other hidden creatures. Saying that this film has made a huge impact on us is a understatement. So many different writers and producers are still influenced by Labyrinth in one way or another, and I can see why. I myself can’t help but throw this movie on and reminisce. So, happy 35th anniversary to Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, a film that will be loved and admired for many generations to come.