Episode 3: Pan's Leeches

46m ·

Episode 3: Pan's Leeches

After discussing leech-themed cocktails (1:30) and another round of Leech Anatomy 101 (4:07), Aaron, Banks and Evan dive into Pan's Labyrinth ’s leechiest themes (11:28), scenes (22:00), and characters (28:10). To get some relief, the guys head into their first Leech on a Beach segment (35:17). They conclude by considering the film’s medicinal qualities (38:49) and giving an overall rating -- from 1 to 4 -- of the film’s leechiness (44:10).

We’re always looking to expand our pond -- please reach out!

Series URL: www.theleechpodcast.com

Public email contact: theleechpodcast@gmail.com

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  • Hosted by Evan Cate, Banks Clark, and Aaron Jones
  • Editing by Evan Cate
  • Graphic design by Banks Clark
  • Original music by Justin Klump of Podcast Sound and Music
  • Production help by Lisa Gray of Sound Mind Productions
  • Equipment help from Topher Thomas


Evan 00:05

Hello everyone, welcome back to the Leech Podcast, the most visceral podcast. I'm your host, Evan Cate. And I'm joined by two leechy gentlemen, Aaron Jones and BanksClark.


Hey guys. 


How's it going?

Evan 00:21

The Leech Podcast has a show about movies that suck the life out of you. They also stick with you. They may even be good for you. Like a leech. If you're wondering what this means, think of a movie that you saw that you knew was amazing. And it also took so much out of you that you thought I don't think I can watch this movie ever again. And somehow, some way. Later on, you watch the movie again. And it is the best thing you've ever seen. That is a leech movie. Some of our listeners are wondering, how did y'all discover leech movies? Well, the three of us discovered our shared love of leech films. When we used to teach together at a school. We found quickly that the three of us are bleeding hearts, who love films. And we all know that blood attracts leeches. So we used to teach together, but now we leech together.

Banks 01:27

That's a good one.

Evan 01:29

Thank you. Thank you, I wrote that myself. We would love for others to join us in this leechy endeavor. So if you're interested in talking to us sharing ideas, please hit us up @LeechPodcast on Twitter, and theLeechPodcast on Instagram. We've already heard from some listeners who got some great ideas. Last week we asked about leech cocktails, what would be great drinks that have a leech theme and very grateful for the listeners who shared a cocktail called leeches. Here's the recipe guys. I'd love to get your feedback on what you think about this cocktail. So the recipe for leeches: 

-three shots lemonade

-half shot vodka

-half shot peach schnapps

-a quarter shot of Canadian whiskey. Preferably black velvet

Okay, guys, what do you think?

Banks 02:20

A bit sweet for my taste. I don't know. Do I do leeches like high blood sugar? That's my question.

Aaron 02:28

Hey, I was thinking the appropriate lee ch cocktail might be a little stankier--like a little bit like a bleeding armpit.

Banks 02:44

How does one make a bleeding armpit, Aaron?

Aaron 02:42

I'm waiting for the listeners to figure it out.

Evan 02:45

It's quite the challenge that Aaron has posed to our listeners. And I do think that that was a worthy effort, but we will take more suggestions on the leech cocktail. I believe Banks has a concoction in mind. They don't want to Oh, sorry. Was that too soon to spoil that?

Banks 03:00

Hey, this is what I'll say..beet juice is included. So that's all I'm gonna say at this point.

Aaron 03:07 Mmmmm, snaps and claps

Banks 03:09

I heard the pandemic ends. You know, we will get together and we will fine tune what this is we want to hear from you guys about what your ideas are. We'll try them all.

Evan 03:21

Okay, nothing beats a leech cocktail. Probably a great segue into something new this week, we're gonna have a new segment called “leech on a beach.” This is a segment dedicated to fun or humorous parts of the movies because we realize many of these movies are very serious and very grueling. And sometimes some levity is needed. Beyond our puns, we thought we wanted to really highlight leechy fun parts of movies. So stay tuned.

Aaron 03:50

Yeah, a little vacation, little vacation.

Evan 03:52

You can sip on your leech cocktail

Aaron 04:00

for the leech on the beach segment. 

Evan 4:01 

All right, so without further ado, Aaron, please teach us about some leeches with “leech anatomy 101”

Aaron 04:08

Leech Anatomy 101. This week and I'd like to talk to us about leeches teeth. leeches teeth. Couple years ago, 2019 they discovered a new leech. I'm looking at the News & Observer, Smithsonian researchers who discovered a new leech that had a three jaws each containing 56 to 59 teet--56 to 59--this is a leech that bites and bleeds humans. And so intriguing to me. You look imagine this you're looking like at a straw--this is like the leeches mouth--like three rows of teeth going down into like a little cave. Oh my goodness! This is the thing that's sucking on you! And as I was reading this article, the researcher said the way they discovered this leech was simply by walking into a swamp, just south of DC and Maryland. Walking into the swamp in shorts and flip flops, and seeing what would come up when they walked out? By golly, this little critter with 56 to 59 teeth per each three rows came up attached, greenish brown with some little orange speckles. And that's a leech with some teeth.

Evan 05:26

Wow. Thank you for that.

Banks 05:28

Thank you, question mark?


Those were some leech teeth. Wow. Okay.


teach us about leech-us.


So let's, let's all keep this in mind as we dive into this episode of the Leech Podcast. Our movie today, of course, is Pan's Labyrinth, a wonderful film directed by Guillermo Del Toro. And to give us a synopsis of this film, Banks, take it away.


Happy to! Obviously about to give a synopsis. So spoiler alert! If you haven't seen the movie, this would be a good time to pause it, go watch it, come back, the recording will still be here. It'll be well worth your time. But find the right time for this movie, that's for sure. It's not, not the one that you want to have to lighten the mood. But it's a wonderful film. Another quick thing is just a quick trigger warning. This is a film that has some pretty serious, just very heavy themes, especially around childbirth, but also it has some really nasty gore scene. Nothing absurd. This isn't a slasher film by any means. But you know, there are some things involving a razor blade that is, that'll stick with you a little bit like a leech. So just wanted to cover that, my guess is we might be talking about it. So just wanted to make sure those are out of the way. And make sure that y'all know about that before we listen to that. 

So this is a film that bridges between just some really brutal realities of the Spanish Civil War that really holds no punches at all. And then is also paired with some just wonderful wimzie of fantasy throughout. And so it's a film that goes back and forth. And the movie just sort of layers these in, almost like a very strange leechy layered cake of realism and fantasy. One after the other. The lead character is a little girl named Ophelia. And Ophelia is the daughter of Carmen, who is sort of pregnant with her younger brother. And the younger brother's father is named Vidal who is a captain of sort of the like, what is the faction called? I think that they're called the...

Aaron 07:58

Falangism? Yeah.

Banks 08:00

Is it the Falangist movement?

Evan 08:01

Yeah. So it's like fascist Spain. Right. 

Banks 08:02

Yeah, you know, a very authoritarian regime. And so we're sort of thrown into the film and when they're sort of driving out to go meet the captain. And as they arrive Ophelia finds a labyrinth. And after doing that we're sort of then introduced from into this sort of fantasy realm where she meets a fawn, who then gives her a series of trials where she has to, you know, get a key from a toad and then she has to go and you know, get a dagger from a pale man at a feast, and then finally has to then take her younger brother into the labyrinth. And while all this is happening, at the same time, we have, you know, the mother struggling with sickness and childbirth and having traveled too soon. We're seeing the rebels battle in the Spanish Civil War into this gruesome detail, as hostages are detained and tortured. And it sort of escalates further and further as Ophelia progresses more and more in these different trials. And it's both happening as if these two stories are intertwined, but also, the contrast between the fantasy and the reality is incredibly stark, and the movie does a masterful job of balancing these two motifs, and playing them off of one another. And then finally at the end, the last trial Ophelia must take her younger brother into the labyrinth, where she then refuses to spill his her brother's blood. But then she is followed by Vidal, by her at this point stepfather, who then shoots her. And Ophelia dies in the final scene, because she refused to spill the blood of her innocent brother. And as she dies, we also get this sort of fantastic…. We're sort of swept up and taken to her then becoming a princess, the princess Moana of the underworld in a very positive sense. And then she is shown to be like, these have been what all the trials have been building towards, both in reality and out of reality, both at the same time. And so that's how this movie ends. It is an incredibly difficult movie, but also an incredibly powerful one. That I don't know about you guys, but I was left exhausted at the end of it.

Evan 10:25

Indeed, thank you. Thanks. So we're gonna move into our categories. Our first one is leechy themes. So Aaron, what was the theme? That was Leechy for you in this movie?

Aaron 10:37

I want him to talk about the theme of fatherhood in the film. I think I told you both that I watched this film for the first time many years ago. And actually before I was myself a father, and I had one reaction to it, then I think, I thought, you know, I, first of all, I never want to watch this movie again. And here I am having watched it a second time with you all. So it's stuck with me though it's stuck with me. But I have to say that being a father now my daughter is seven years old, beloved to me, and watching this movie about a young girl just a couple years older than my daughter go through a lot of suffering I... and without a father in her life to protect her ….or without it just she's an incredible danger so many times, and I think I had this experience of helplessness. As a father watching the film, like there's nothing I can do to help her protect this girl. And I mean, she's perfectly capable a lot of times of protecting herself. But I was intrigued by the ways in which like her in the absence of her father, becomes crucial to the film. And also the way in which fatherhood becomes one of the fantasy elements of the film. What do I mean? What do I mean? I was intrigued by the moment early in the film before Ophelia has met Vidal, who will become her who's her stepfather figure. Her mother says, “I want you to call him your father.” And Ophelia resists this notion so many times throughout the movie when Mercedes says, Oh, you know, your father wants you to call him. “He's not my father. He's not, he's not my father,” she resisted so heavily. And her mother says to her, “it's just a word. Say it. It's just a word.” “Pretend” is what her mother is saying. And that's one fantasy. She won't pretend like there's this deep allegiance to this missing father. And the last thing I'll say, is that Vidal also seems to have this obsession with fatherhood, he desperately wants to be a father--but only to a son. To the point that he...he almost seems cold and lifeless, totally uncaring, unfeeling when his wife dies, so long as the sun is preserved. And we know that's part of his character the whole time that he he only cares about the coming of the Son and his own becoming a father. And I'm intrigued both by, I'll be brief here the, the fixation on his watch. The broken watch, which his father without his father broke at the time of his own death, so his son would know when he died. And then, with Vidal, he sees the rebels with their guns, pointing at him he wants to break his watch. He wants to be remembered to have that same masculinist legacy. And Mercedes says, Your son will never know who you are, you will be erased. And there's something so painful about that, but it feels entirely deserved, like this kind of fatherhood is a reality that should be embraced.

Evan 13:40

Yeah, thanks. And I think to pick up on that. He's such an extreme version er has such an extreme understanding of fatherhood. And it fits a lot of other parts of his personality, right? He's the most brutal of anybody in the film. He shows no mercy to people who disagree. with him. And he is part of an ideology that is itself. So extreme. It's extreme nationalism. And, and he's not the only extreme character in the film. And I think that's why it's extremity or going to extremes is is my theme for the movie. There's revolutionaries, who will go to extreme measures to overthrow the fascists. Fantasy is woven throughout this film, which shows these extreme versions of reality, these extreme creatures, these extreme trials and quests, all that Ophelia has to undertake with these bloated toads, or this very, extremely pale man. And the film itself even kills a young girl, it's willing to take that step, this extreme step. And so I'm just struck by the extremes of this film, on a thematic level, on a personal level. But also the extremes of beauty in this film. It's funny, you guys had to convince me to watch it, because I thought it looked really scary. And I was so struck by how many scenes took my breath away, because they were so beautiful. And I left the film with a lot more questions. Just wondering, how do you hold together these extremes? And it seems like, somehow for Ophelia these extremes that she she is thrust into, due to choices made by her mom and her stepdad. Her answer is to go to her own kind of extreme, this extreme fantasy world, which is itself painful and scary at times. And yet, it's also beautiful. And it's this way in which she deals with the extreme situation she's in with an even deeper commitment to extreme beauty.

Banks 15:30

Yeah, it's, I think that Guillermo Del Toro’s ability to create a beauty that is odd in some senses. But even when I watch it, you know, I also like Aaron said, I watched this back in high school, and I thought that, “This is such a cool movie. It's great.” And then I watched it again now and I'm like, Hey, this is an amazing movie and be Oof. Like, I was, I remember, you know, we all watched this together, and we were all speechless. For a minute. We were on a zoom call silent, together, just not knowing what to do with it. Partially because of the difficulty, but also because of the beauty of it, how it's masterful and putting that in terms of extremes just make so much sense. I don't know if Aaron, you had anything to say before I jump into mine?

Aaron 16:29

 No, please go ahead

Banks 16:32

I think that I just sent around the question of, it's about imagination and the question is this about imagination? Ophelia is fantasy world, something that is simply an escape from the traumatic reality that she's in. This interplay between trauma and imagination, for me, is incredibly powerful. You know, I was an art teacher for eight years. And as a result of that, just ended up being utterly inspired by students facing down incredible difficulty through art and imagination, to the point where I left and now I work in mental health. And so when I watch this movie, all I can, I'm asking, “Well, is this just about imagination as an escape? Or is this about something more than that?” I love that the film just creates this dynamic interplay between those two and we are just left to wonder left to be thoughtful with a bit of a mess at the end. You know, so much of the film is, you know, I think about the opening scene where she, Ophelia walks into the woods because her mother is experiencing morning sickness. And she finds this odd winged bug. And this, and she immediately knows that this is a fairy. And then in sort of in the seclusion and darkness as her mother sleeps back in the house, this transforms into an actual fairy that anybody could recognize, you know, with human form, and dragonfly wings. And it's that slippage. Is this happening? Is it not? Does she actually go into the door that she carves into a wall and face down the world's most frightening monster with eyes in his hands? Or is this simply a flight of fancy? And if it is, why does she fly to such frightening spaces? Why does she go to spaces that are not an escape that you'd want to go to? And I just think that that interplay is so powerful. And the power because it speaks to the power of stories and the power of imagination and the power of why we want to watch movies even to begin with. It's not because just escapism, it's because they speak to us for some reason in the midst of all of it. And that theme I have no resolution for. But man, it is stuck to me like a leech. I'll tell you what.

Aaron 19:14

Yea, Banks you just put a thought in my head that it's like. It's like in the world of reality she faces trauma and horror, and she has no no power, no quests, no influence. But she translates her trauma and horror into the language and symbology of myth. And then there she has agency in the myths, she has agency and influence and empowerment. And even though it's terrifying. And I just there's something about the creative space that is an empowering space, the fantasy space.

Evan 19:47

It's like the issue isn't the danger. The issue is agency. Yes. She's not afraid of danger. She's a brave girl. The issue is that with the doll, she's, she has no agency.

Banks 20:03

And with her mother's failing health. Yeah, yeah. I mean, what can you do? Right.

Aaron 20:07

Rather than put a Mandrake root in a bowl of milk. 

Banks 20:11

Don't forget the blood. 

Aaron 20:13

Yeah. Oh, my goodness. Oh, my goodness. More on that. Yes.

Evan 20:19

So indeed, more to come. So with those themes, the fatherhood extremes and imagination and trauma, let's think about some really specific things about this film. There are a number of leechy scenes that suck something out of you, but stick with you. I thought I would start. Mine in nothing very profound, I don't think but it is the scene where her first trial, where she goes down to find that key. And she meets this gigantic Toad, and she's in the muck underground. And it's just this large, bloated Toad, with bumps and weird colors and sounds. And it basically just, like explodes and belches out this key. And I don't think I'll ever forget it. And it's, it's stuck with me. So that's my scene.

Banks 21:15

Man. And I believe that there are things sticking on her and that seem to mean she's covered in. I remember, you're like texting to each other like, Oh, my gosh, she's covered in leeches! 

Evan 21:30

It was very on brand for the Leech Podcast.

Banks 21:35

But like, she emerges from that, like from the stump covered in muck, right. And even then, right, she has been returned to the dinner party. Right, it's a moment of sort of the world, the extremes colliding, right. A powerful moment. You know, so for me, it's another one of the trial scenes, and oh my gosh, you know, I was alluding to it before but the scene with “the pale man” as it's called, right, with the feast of all the red foods, the murals of this devourer of infants sort of reminds me of Saturn Devouring his Children, this old like painting. Good heavens. It's frightening as anything. And here's this personification of all of that. with Hannah, the scene is literally it not only is very much just about the devouring of, you know, blood, and even the food is all red. All the foods are red. And blood is itself I think, a theme and a visual motif throughout the movie. But when I think of Pan's Labyrinth, unfortunately--I wish it wasn'--the image that comes to my mind is, you know, that pale man walking with his eyes in his hands next to his forehead. You know, full credit. I believe Doug Jones, the person who did sort of the body acting for that, and it's masterful work out amazing work and sort of practical special effects throughout this. That moment sticks with me and I think about it. And I don't want to be necessarily and I in the same way, I don't want that leech on me. Like when I think of the leeches scene, that's it. And it's an overflowing of imaginative imagery. It's full of these ripe themes. That also, it makes my skin crawl. So for me, that wins out. 

Aaron 24:03

Yeah, it doesn't get much leecheir. I have to say, for me, I've scene that sticks with me and take something out of me is this scene of conflict, where I think it's one of the first times that I really remember in the film of Ophelia, and Vidal, her stepfather colliding. And it's the scene at her mother's bedside where Ophelia has been under the bed, tending to the Mandrake with the milk and the blood that she thinks is this healing agent that the Father has given her to help her mother's health and pregnancy. And Vidal finds the bowl and hurls the Mandrake root into the fire, and Ophelia turns and watches the child burn. And good lord, it's this moment of just incredible violence like talk about he who devours infants, he who destroys and is enemy to children, it has to be down. And then that moment, right, he again takes away all her agency, destroys that thing, where she's tried to take control of her mother's health. And you can just see all the foreshadowing in that moment that whatever fatherhood means to him, it's just gonna burn, it's gonna burn it's that moment is terrible.

Banks 25:26

Good heavens. Think about how that pulls together. I mean, talk about a moment where the extremes collide, the moment where it goes into the fire and you're wondering, is it just a weird root? They are, and then… it starts I can hear right now…

Aaron 25:25


Banks 25:26

...the scream of that root. Oh, are those screams just in her head? Where are they? Are they real? It pulls together all the themes into this just melting pot of just discomfort. Oh, that scene, Aaron...I might have to change my vote.

Evan 26:11

I mean, these are very Leechy scenes and I guess I mean, Vidal is central in that last one. I mean, next you have a leechy, leechiest character because I feel like he would be in the running, perhaps. 

Banks 26:30

Oh good heavens, I think he's a front runner. I mean, here's, here's the only thing. The reason why I actually don't have the doll as the front runner. Or as the leeches character in this case, is a leech is not the host. If nothing else Vidal is a person of conviction. He is a host... of evil in my opinion. I mean, he is the worst, but he is authentic. He believes and he has drunk the Kool Aid and he is all behind everything making no qualms about it.

Aaron 27:12

I mean, I think he has three rows of 56 or 59 teeth each Good lord.

Banks 27:17

I mean, but here's the thing I wonder if the leeches are the ones who are not even taking aside at all. And so I think of, if you look at the banquet, not the banquet that happens with the pale man, but of you know, you see a priest, you see all these people who are there, they're not the rebels. They're there just let me hold on to my wealth and I'm gonna say “Okay” to whatever. And to me that speaks a lot to politics right now. I I think that it's a that that might get a little too real but...

Evan 27:49

The priest, man….

Banks 27:56

So if I had to put my finger on an actual character though there, though it's Garces. He's the lieutenant under the Vidal. He's the one who's always uncertain. He [Vidal] always speaks to him. Like, “you know, do you know how a man dies? You know, go into battle. Don't be fair. Don't be afraid, you know, does that and then he just sort of learns that he dies and he just sort of has been. He's a character who was just leeching onto the host who is Vidal? Evil host that he is. He is he had he was spineless. And I'm gonna have to ask our anatomy expert. I'm gonna say Vidall has spine. But do leeches have spines?


I'm gonna hold that off until next episode, so those who want to get listening, we're gonna learn about leech spines on the next episode. Do they have spines? Stay tuned.


Good plug. Good plug. Aaron, do you have a leaky character?

Aaron 28:57

All right, let me think. I think I'm reading leechiness in a little bit of a different way. I'm, you know, Ophelia is always gonna be the character in this film, who sticks with me and take something out of me. And watching this watching her struggle, watching her overcome, and even like, stare down, stare down an armed man who wants to kill her? That's always gonna stick with me. Watching her refuse on the very cusp of achieving this mythic salvation that she's been hoping for watching her refuse to hurt the child in her arms. I'm not going to forget that. And that's, that's leads for me. So he does it hurts. take something out of me. But it's medicine. It's it's medicine too. That's what I have.

Evan 29:50

I think I'm interpreting my character similarly to you, Aaron. I first toyed with the idea of Vidal, which maybe we all did. Because he definitely sucks the life out of me. And kind of out of the film. I mean, every scene he's in, you're just like,”Ehhh” it's like fascism is exhausting. But like to quote Lebowski, thanks to your point Banks, “Say what you will about the tenets of National Socialism? You know, it's an ethos.” He's terrible. Yeah, he has a spine, but it's in the worst ways, right? So I don't see some great lesson or there's no therapy for me in his life. And, and so the character that will stick with me, who I found myself drawn to again and again was Mercedes. I think she holds together these extremes of realism and fantasy in her own way. It is really beautiful. She is the most practical, the most inside the fascist place, knows everything, knows what's going on, has so much trust. And yet she's directing all of that towards this very idealistic thing, revolution, which is, and the bravery, the brilliance, the courage. It's so powerful, and I won't forget her character. And I mean, she has so many unforgettable, unforgettable scenes. And I think, to me... it I think it's fitting that she's the one who cuts Vidal. And she's the one who physically defeats him. She is, I think, the strongest character in the film. Yeah. I mean, many characters are strong, but to me, she, she seems to match Vidal in a certain kind of strength, a kind of political strength. And yet, even there, she does him because she cuts him but she doesn't kill him. She defeats him, but doesn't take his humanity from him. And so I just, I was so taken with her and she will stick with me. And I was so terrified the whole movie that she was going to die. And so in that sense, watching her journey and struggle, sucked the life out of me. Even though she ended up living at the end of the film. So Mercedes for me, is the Leechy character.

Aaron 32:07

There's something really fitting about her being, in a way she is, she is a mother figure to Ophelia. And many times she provides in ways that Ophelia’s mother just can't. Because her life is being sucked out of her at least away from her by the child inside of her So Mercedes, also in a way becomes the recipient, I would say, of afilias sacrifice. Uh huh. She becomes the beneficiary. She won't ever forget a philia and therefore is a different person, I think, at the end of the film.

Evan 32:44

Okay, so listeners, we're gonna take a quick break. We're gonna pause now for our newest segment, “Leech on a Beach.”

Evan 35:32

I'll start us off. This is a scene that is, I wouldn't say necessarily light. It is very violent. But after Captain Vidal, gets his mouth sliced by Mercedes, he sews it back up himself with a mirror. Very painful, it looks terrible. And then, too, I guess, disinfected, he takes a sip of whiskey. And it comes out of the wound that he's just sewn up, and he spits it out because it's so painful. And maybe it says a lot about the state of my soul, but I laughed out loud at that moment. And that was my leechy scene, or not my Leechy scene my leech on a beach, in part because it also then made me think of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight, and the Joker. And all I could think was “Why so serious?”

Aaron 33:54

Oh, I was gonna say, Evan, this is not what my experience of vacation looks like. Normally when I'm going to the beach, I'm hoping for a better vacation than you just gave me. But I'll uh, I'll answer that I'm gonna try and be a little more lighthearted. And that for me, like when How do I go on vacation in this movie, and this hard movie? I'm still getting the live site data man. I'm at the beach is still leech at the beach. For me, it's for me the character in the film. Who does that, for me is the character of the light. The sunlight in the film for me is its own character. Just like when I'm at the beach, you know? And if you watch scene by scene, the way that the light presents itself in the film, as as a golden light, or is this light clear as water at different moments in the forest? For me, that's when I find myself receiving ease and going on vacation in the middle of a hard film.

Banks 34:56

I think that Ophelia the actress is Ivana Bachero. She has one of the world's most authentic smiles. And you see it every time something fantastic occurs, she gives this smile. It's the smile that says there is good still, and there is joy still. And yet something can be well. And in spite of all the heaviness that happens, man, that's like a summer breeze on a sunny day. I will enjoy that every time. And it like there's this weird thing right? When she meets a fairy, she finds a rock and like, shoves it into like a statue as its eye and then like a little bug shoots out of his mouth. Everyone else in their sasne mind would freak out, she smiles.

Evan 36:05

So I think that's a good segue to our next category which is “Hirudo Therapy.” The fancy way of saying the medicinal value of leeches. And I think maybe I'll start us off. I think for me, the idea in this film, or the thing that sticks with me, that makes the film, not just painful, but also instructive, is kind of this idea that when you're in pain, you should dive deeper into what is beautiful. And yet also, as you do so, you become aware that beauty itself brings its own kind of pain. I'm just struck by the ways Ophelia in the midst of all the suffering that she's in, she she dies, she moves toward beauty, but even that beauty is scary and hard, but it's also what she needs, it seems. And so, I guess my lesson is that the opposite of pain isn't happiness or the absence of pain. It's beauty. Only beauty can re-narrate, or redirect, or bring a new kind of order to pain and loss.

Banks 37:21

And it's not because it's the opposite of it, right? It's just the next step. Right? It's the answer as you put it.

Evan 37:30

And I thought about, there's a quote attributed to Dostoevsky, which is “Only beauty can save the world.” And I think it's a great quote, I think it's true in many ways. And I looked into it a little bit. It comes from a passage in the novel The idiot. And it's in a scene where this Prince is looking at a painting of a woman. And he says, “So you appreciate that kind of beauty.” This woman asked the prince, he says, “Yes, that kind.” The prince replies with an effort. “Why?” She asks. “In that face, there is much suffering,” he says, as though involuntarily, as though he is talking to himself. “Beauty like that is strength.” One of the other women in the room declares, “One could turn the world upside down with beauty like that.”

Aaron 38:20

I think for me, I'd say elaborate on that. what I wanted to talk about, you said strength, but for me, it was courage, watching the different kinds of courage that made themselves felt and the film. I'm thinking of Dr. Ferrero, the physician who helps the ailing mother, he helps wounded soldiers on both sides. He doesn't have a side other than the side of life; life prevailing, life being protected. And watching him watching Mercedes, watching Ophelia, this watching these people in the most, these awful circumstances, have courage. Its both inexplicable it's deeply moral, it's, but it's one of the most real things in the film, and it's moving to me, and it's inspiring to me, and its Hirudotherapy.

Banks 39:26

At least in movie form. When I think of the medicinal quality of this movie it is the love of story of narrative. It's the fact that if you want to tell a story, you can put any two things your imagination wants together, and there's a way to tell that story in a way that will captivate and move. All you have to do is see a path between the two. And somehow in Guillermo Del Toro's mind--which I have want to be able to think like in half don't want, I don't know--he saw a way to narrate the sort of fantasy world, right? That would make JK Rowling envious, and combine that with the brutality of the Spanish Civil War, and he charted a path right through the both of them. And it worked.

Aaron 40:27

I'm coming back to that. Coming back to the idea of courage. I think that one of the things that Ophelia embodies in the heart of this film is that she decides to value and treasure stories. Against all odds and against constant contradiction from the adults around her are saying, “Get out of your fairytale books stop fleeing into fantasy, stop imagining.” And you’re right, like, her resistance is an act of courage and it's, it's enshrining the value of story at the heart of the film.

Evan 41:02

How many leeches do we give this film?

Aaron 41:06

How many leeches?

Banks 41:09

One is the lowest four is the highest, if I'm not mistaken?

Aaron 41:12

Specifically because four leeches would take your life. Just kidding. That's not actually true. I'll tell you how many leeches it would take to take a life on a future segment. Keep listening.

Evan 41:26

It's a four point scale still, I know Aaron wanted to cut a leech in half and call that five leeches. Yeah, four leeches. I think is still the criteria

Banks 41:39

I'm going to give it four

Aaron 41:11

Say more, say more.

Banks 41:42

When I think of movies that, you know, is that, as Evan said in the intro, the movies that you watch that stick with you, then you watch them again and they floor ya. That's what happened when I watched this movie again with you guys. And it's not because I didn't know this movie. Well, I think I'd seen it multiple times, it just had been five or 10 years. And it did for me. And it stuck with me ever since it stuck with me before then. It ain't pleasant. I think it's utterly medicinal. And here's the thing the medicinal part about it has changed for me. As I've grown, as I've moved into mental health, this movie has opened up new layers. And maybe I'm biased because I got this mental health side that I'm really focused in on and this movie clearly has a huge psychological element. But it speaks to me, I'm going to give it four leeches, and I don't care who knows it,

Aaron 42:42


Evan 42:43

Bolt, I love it.

Aaron 42:44

I was gonna say I mean, come back to the idea of fatherhood. Let me also come back to the idea of people walking into swamps in shorts and flip flops. Oftentimes, when leech hunters would go into the swamps, and actually oftentimes collecting leeches on their own body for medicinal purposes that they could then take off put into a basket, give to a medical practitioner, they would have to wait at least, oftentimes 20 minutes, like leave a leech on for that long because it's so much easier to take a leech off. Once it's already full it lets go easier. And for me, this movie just kept taking it, I'm giving it three leeches because it for me, as a father watching the end in this film, it took too much. It took too much. And that's why I'm gonna give it three.

Evan 43:48

So I think I was in a slightly different position, because it's just the first time I saw it. And I'll admit it, I was speechless at the end of it. And yet, I had, I felt it was hard connect for me in certain ways. And yet, as time has gone on, since we've watched it, and I think especially through this conversation, I'm at three leeches as well. I was, I was at two for a little while, just because I felt like I didn't connect to it for some reason. But the more I sat with it, and kind of like what you were saying thanks about story and about the power of narrative and art to work through or work into trauma and pain. I do think this film is profound for that. So I'm a three leecher for this one.

Banks 44:39

These are high marks. I think that is a, we are holding out at a 3.25/4.

Evan 44:49

All right. Well that. That brings us to the end of another episode of The leech. Thanks to all our listeners, for tuning in. We would love to hear what you thought about this episode. Again. You can find us on Twitter @LeechPodcast and on Instagram at theLeechPodcast, please. Yes, suggestions, ideas. If there are leechy scenes that we missed, please send us clips, send us summaries, send us videos of you reenacting them! We want to see it all.

Aaron 45:23

Not all of us are going to watch that.


Please keep them appropriate. Please, yeah, talk to us. Tell us what you think about the pod. And we would love to hear from you. Thanks for tuning in. On behalf of Banks and Aaron, I’m Evan Cate. This is the Leech Podcast.

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