One of the best films to come from The Muppets creator Jim Henson, and sadly the last film he directed before he died, was the 1986 film Labyrinth. It’s a film with many big names behind it, as it was also produced by George Lucas and Monty Python Terry Jones was involved in the screenplay. It also starred David Bowie as Jareth, the Goblin King, the films baddie.
The film follows the adventures of Sarah Williams (a young Jennifer Connelly) who must brave the titular Labyrinth to rescue her baby brother Toby, a problem of her own doing! Sarah is a daydreamer who loves fantasy stories, which gets her into trouble one evening as she is supposed to be babysitting Toby for her parents. She returns late and is told off, so is in a bit of a bad mood already when Toby starts crying and won’t shut up. She tries reciting some lines from the play (called Labyrinth) that she is learning, which is a story about a girl who is given special powers by the Goblin King. When this fails to calm Toby, she shouts out loud that she wishes The Goblin King would take Toby away.
Unfortunately for Sarah, there are a number of Goblins lying in wait in Toby’s bedroom, and on hearing her exclamation, they carry Toby off and Jareth, The Goblin King appears in front of Sarah. Realising what she has done, she pleads for Toby’s return, but Jareth tells her she can only have him back if she manages to negotiate the titular Labyrinth within 13 hours. Sarah sets off, and initially meets a dwarf called Hoggle, who is actually a spy for Jareth, but who eventually takes Sarah’s side. She also encounters Sir Didymus, a rather inept fox dressed like a knight, who rides around on the back of a dog called Ambrosius, and Ludo, a huge beast with a heart of gold (not literally!), who she saves from some tormenting Goblins.
Negotiating the Labyrinth requires solving many tricky puzzles, many of which are completely unfair and tipped heavily in favour of Jareth. She also encounters many other weird and fantastic creatures, such as the The Fire Gang, weird dancing creatures with detachable heads, who can’t understand why Sarah’s head won’t come off when they pull at it. Another puzzle is served by the Four Guards, who present Sarah with a logic puzzle involving two doors, one of which leads to certain death, the other to Jareth’s castle. The guards are strange creates with two heads each, one at the top, and one at the bottom, poking out from behind a sort of shield. Luckily Sarah chooses correctly, and she enters Jareth’s castle.
The castle is very strange, inspired by one of those impossible MC Escher drawings with stairs which appear to be the right way up but are actually upside down. The castle is a maze all to itself, but eventually Sarah manages to catch up with Jareth, and rescues Toby by remembering the lines from her play, telling Jareth he has no power over her. The castle begins to break up around them, and Sarah finds herself back in her house, with Toby back in his cot.
Whether the events are real or just a dream Sarah is not really sure, but the message of the film is that Sarah must start to take responsibility for her actions as she goes from child to adult, but that she doesn’t necessarily have to lose her overactive imagination in order to do so.