The month of January saw the immensely sad passing of the Rock and Culture Icon David Bowie after losing a year and a half battle with cancer. The only way I can describe the way that I feel is to declare that I am in disbelief – Bowie has had such a phenomenal influence on music and fashion over the decades that I could only believe he was immortal. For someone from the UK, a permanent piece of our national identity has been lost. When someone with such a huge personality and energy passes, it really does make you ponder on where such a bright and wonderful essence goes after life.
After writing such profound deep musings, I’m now kind of embarrassed to be doing his memorial piece on the fantasy movie “Labyrinth (1986)”. What do you get if you cross Bowie with The Muppets and Monty Python? This: the tale of Sarah, an imaginative yet brattish teenager who after one too many times of babysitting her little brother, wishes for the goblins to take him away “Right now!”. Much to her surprise, the Goblin King (Bowie) does indeed come and spirits away the baby to his castle. To get him back, Sarah must navigate through the perilous and treacherous Labyrinth that surrounds the Goblin City within 13 hours or her brother, Toby, will be turned into a Goblin forever!
This is an excellent fantasy movie that really stands out from a lot of the crap from the 80s. It’s genuinely frightening for younger kids, but is balanced with enough tongue-in-cheek humour to keep children of all ages entertained. It turns the traditions of fairy tales on their head in a way that was never done before – even fantasy films made today still look like a tribute this movie. So, it’s not a bad movie at all. It does, however, hold a source of embarrassment for me because of the fact that this movie is the manifestation of my primitive lust for the great man himself.
When I first saw the movie, I was far more concerned about the plight of Toby and Sarah to be anything other than frightened of this weird Goblin person. But, as time went by and I grew older, I began to feel less scared of Jared, and I eventually realised that I really fancy androgynous guys. Yes, he has a weird wig and has eye make-up that was caked on with a trowel, but he is gorgeous in this movie, and; didn’t the Jim Henson Production Company know it? [That’s rhetorical by the way.] He struts around in leather coats and knee-high boots; he prances round in low-cut shirts with puffed out flowy sleeves, and those pants left nothing to the imagination. All things considered, I’m surprised that it got a PG rating; the ‘thing’ could take your eye out.
And then, even better, you realise that Jared is actually in love with Sarah, and it all becomes too much for a teenage girl. The guy is basically a cross-over of a rockstar and Legolas with dominion over a vast fantastical land; and yet the dude is blatantly head-over-heels in love with a young, and slightly whiny, mortal. He took away the baby for she asks it. He flaunts his omnipotence – turning back time, causing the labyrinth to constantly change, tripping her up at every step – just to simply live up to her expectations of him. It becomes apparent the entire escapade was devised by him just to get her attention. By the end, as she confronts him for taking away her little brother, he practically begs her. He begs her to adore and worship him, and in return, he will do anything her heart desires.
I can’t help but to find Labyrinth a bit haplessly romantic, and I am still hideously jealous of Jennifer Connelly for having a forlorn Bowie moon after her. As the film presents more and more of his encounters with her, he seem less like a villainous sorcerer and more like the nerd that never got a date, and he can’t stop singing about her eyes. But, even in such a seemingly pathetic persona, Bowie is still amazingly enigmatic and continues to ooze sex appeal. In Sarah’s hallucination, he transforms her into the belle of the ball (a part of sabotaging her quest), and then simultaneously serenades and waltzes her in all his sparkly blue eye-liner glory. How Jennifer Conelly did not spontaneously combust filming this scene, I do not know. In his last hurrah, to foil Sarah’s victory, he tries to throw her off by his crazy Salvador Dali walking on the ceilings trick, and then turns and looks her straight in the eye and cries “Your eyes can be so cruel!” On watching this scene during the tender years of my blossoming into womanhood, I decided that I would never do anything to hurt Mr Bowie, even if he was to steal my baby brother.
So yeah… this film made me fancy the rock god, but moving past my pathetic urges, this movie is also a fantastic testament to his music and work. The soundtrack follows Bowie’s personal musical development, spanning several musical genres all at once, ranging from straight-up pop, love-drenched power ballads, to even reggae. Dare I say it, some of them hold the cult and popular status of the hits of his main musical anthology; “Magic Dance” in particular being a permanent part of many a 90s kids consciousness. The endurance and the ageless quality of these songs is testament to the integrity of Bowie’s craftsmanship. Time and time again, film-makers think they can fob off kids with brainless shit as they think that children won’t notice – at the same time, musicals can be so boring for children, especially during the soppy love songs- but Bowie’s self-penned tunes show that he takes his audience seriously, creating music that wasn’t forgotten after the summer blockbuster season was over but is still being rediscovered 30 years on. Also, Bowie’s presence alone during his love ballads blasted our tiny little minds so much that we could forgive him for all the mush and, just as importantly, allowed us to enjoy it when we got a little bit older. It honestly fills me with warm fuzziness when artists of such prestige treat children as actual human beings. Well played Bowie. Your passion and genius in this movie is clear when you could have easily done a half-arsed job. This piece of work afforded later generations the ability to explore your earlier craft and discover the parts of your soul that you bared during your work.
My will is as strong, and my kingdom is as great… you have no power over me. But space-boy, that didn’t mean I wanted you to leave. Goodnight.