Movies That Changed Us: Labyrinth


It’s a great film that fills your imagination up so much, your five-year-old self believed it was all just a wonderful dream. For what else could the memory of a Goblin King, Escher-esque mazes, and a Bog of Eternal Stench be but the best dream you ever had. This was my experience with Labyrinth, the 1980s fantasy cult classic that starred David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly, and an impressive cast of Jim Hensen puppets. I have periodically lost this film, as in the manor described above, only to rediscover it with glee.


Connelly plays the teenage dreamer Sarah who would rather play out her acting fantasies at the local park then babysit her little ‘brat’ brother, Toby. Toby is practically a non-entity who doesn’t deserve this designation, but brattiness is in the eye of the beholder, and the beholder happens to be a self-centred, 15-year-old. When I was younger than 15 years old, Sarah’s every huff rang true to the sister of a bratty older brother. Being older than 15 years old, I am content to withhold judgment, and admire Jennifer Connelly’s chubby cheeks instead. Aww! She’s so cute when she’s mad.

Returning late from performing her one-girl, no-audience act, Sarah is reprimanded by her stepmother (oh, I have one of those, too) for forgetting her babysitting obligation. Left alone with Toby, he begins to cry and Sarah threatens banishment to the Goblin Kingdom that is the setting of the play she acted out earlier. Uttering the fateful words, “I wish the goblins would come and take you away. Right now,” Sarah finally succeeds in silencing her baby brother. Enter David Bowie(!), the be-make-upped, Hair-Metal-haired Jareth, the Goblin King.

A five year-old heart never beat so fast. What was this thing before me?

Labyrinth was made the year I was born, 1986. It’s time was slightly past, not in my purview, so the look was all the more fantastic in the truest sense of the word. Labyrinth just so happened to be made for me (self-reasoned truth). It introduced me–that is, Jim Henson–introduced me to the realm of fantasy, an affair I carry on today. I belatedly acknowledged Henson’s involvement in the film, because I thought the goblins were real, and never thought to associate the tiny (and ginormous) monsters of Jareth’s kingdom with the plush Muppets and Fraggles I daily associated with. Remember, I’m five (and I don’t have the Internet). David Bowie’s hair, snake-wrapped body, floating balls, and…well I didn’t know what it was, were an event in my young life. There was maybe only one other thing than Bowie’s crystal ball sack that I remembered so vividly:

Magic Dance.” I am resisting all urges to type out the lyrics now to the beat in my head (I couldn’t keep up with a track as hot as this anyways). I love this song. Like the first time I saw Labyrinth again, randomly on cable, this song returned to me at a local dive bar’s retro night in my nineteenth year of life, and I was never so happy to be where I was right then. Knowing now the genius that lay behind the codpiece only makes the song and Bowie’s willing participation in a children’s fantasy puppet show that much sweeter.

Scene: Retro Night at Dyve Bar

Me: OMG! It’s Dance Magic!! (b/c that’s what I though it was called up until 5 minutes ago)

So-Called Bowie-Obsessed Friend: what’s Dance Magic?

Random Eavesdropping Stranger Shouting Over Music:
You don’t know DANCE MAGIC!?


One final memory of Labyrinth that contributed to the fantasy enthusiast (yeah I said it) that I am today comes from the year my mom really got it: somehow she knew, and we didn’t, what we always wanted for Christmas. And there it was: a book of concept art for Labyrinth; all of the goblins in their varied shapes and sizes. (I also got Baby-sitters Club books that year. I am pretty sure that’s responsible for making me a girl.) I didn’t know such things could exist. Page after page was filled with unspeakable beauty, labeled with calligraphic fig. designations. It was like an encyclopedia and colouring book in one, which I think explains me quite precisely. I don’t have the book now; it was lost to the Move that has characterized my gypsy existence. But that’s a tale for another time. For now, welcome again to Flixist. If it’s your first time here, stay awhile.