Labyrinth was released 26 years ago today. It’s easily one of my favourite films and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen it. Repeated viewings have dulled its eccentricity but it is certainly a very strange film, essentially psychoanalysis given a big budget and puppets to play with. In that regard I always view it as a companion piece to the very tonally similar Return To Oz, released the year before. Both concern an adolescent girl and her burgeoning sexuality, the often-reluctant journey into adulthood with its demand to “put childish ways behind”. Both films are, much like adolescence, traumatic at times: I share with many of my peers memories of being hugely disturbed by the Wheelers in Return To Oz and the ‘Helping Hands’ in Labyrinth. Yet the latter film is definitely the lighter and more accessible of the two. The Bowie connection helps a lot, of course – his performance, while hammy, shows him having the time of his life and the soundtrack features a couple of his strongest songs in what was a pretty wretched period for him:
‘As The World Falls Down’ was never released as a single (rumoured to be because Bowie was fearful of it becoming a Chris de Burgh-esque MOR smash) yet time has led to it being regarded as one of his strongest 80s songs. The fact that it accompanies perhaps the most potent scene in Labyrinth probably plays a part in this – scene and song are perfectly married in their tingling, strange eroticism.
Of course, one of the central reasons for Labyrinth’s enduring appeal is its cast of supporting characters:
To this day a picture such as this will evoke waves of affection in me and, I’m sure, many others around my age. I fall in love with Hoggle, Ludo, Sir Didymus and Ambrosius over and over again with every viewing. There was a period during my university days when my friends cottoned on that the easiest way to get me moving when I was ridiculously drunk was to start speaking like Ludo. One “LUDO FRIEND!” and I’d be rising from my slumped state, some primal emotion inside having been triggered. Around the same time I became convinced that Labyrinth had some cosmic connection to my love life: I met one boyfriend at an overnight viewing of the film; another left an ‘I Saw You’ message after purchasing the dvd from me in HMV. Indeed, pretty much every enduring relationship I’ve had has involved a viewing of Labyrinth together – I introduced my fiance to the film a couple of years ago on a lazy Friday evening. He was, thankfully, quickly won over by its charms – who could date someone who hated Labyrinth?!
I always get tears in my eyes at the end of the film. It gets me on so many levels: the enduring love of real friendships; nostalgia for the innocence of childhood; an evocation of the wonder of imagination and play; a reminder that we must always strive to hold onto the better parts of ourselves. These days there’s an added level – the film itself reminds me of so many wonderful moments in my life that I know it will always fill me with a profound affection and joy. As the film itself puts it:
Didymus: And remember, fair maiden…should you need us…
Hoggle: Yes…should you need us…for any reason at all…
Sarah: I need you, Hoggle!
Hoggle: You-You do?!
Sarah: I don’t know why, but every now and again in my life, for
no reason at all – I need you. All of you.
Hoggle: Oh, you do? Well, why didn’t you say so?!