RGS Academic Journal 2022 - 2023

066 067 What makes Guillermo Del Toro so Unique as a Filmmaker and Author? Cam Martin Born in Mexico in 1964, Del Toro lived an average life. He got into cinematography from a young age, studied at the Centro de Investigación y Estudios Cinematográficos at the University of Guadalajara, began publishing his first works and so on. It’s only recently that Guillermo’s works have begun shaping his profound career. Del Toro is known for his mystical themes, presenting elements of horror and the grotesque whilst encapsulating their raw beauty. He inputs ideas dating back from the 1700s of the Sublime – a philosophical concept defined as an artistic effect that causes the mind to feel intense inexplicable emotion. The key to the sublime is an amalgamation of fear and awe. Del Toro uses this philosophical technique to represent the convoluted nature of mankind, in which everything is nuanced and ambiguous – that things aren’t ‘black and white’. His most recent work, Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio, remakes the tale of Pinocchio in 1883 as a stop-motion film. Again, despite being confined to the limits of stop-motion, Del Toro maintains his naturalistic and complex tones throughout by creating sets that immerse the viewer in a genuine replica of Tuscany, beautiful and yet so imperfect. On the surface, Guillermo heavily critiques Benito Mussolini or ‘Il Duce’ (meaning ‘The leader’ in Italian) as well as strong authoritarian states in general in his version of Pinocchio. There are parallels with Guillermo Del Toro’s El Laberinto Del Fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth in its English version), where he dives into the issues with state control in the Spanish civil war under Francisco Franco’s dictatorship. However, the less obvious themes in El Laberinto Del Fauno are what makes his writing so encapsulating. Del Toro’s classic fantasy elements can be seen throughout this film. He demonstrates the way children use fantasy and imagination to escape from the horrors of life (in this case war). However, Guillermo makes a point that this escape technique is not only present in adolescence but at all ages. He does this by ending the film with another fantasy, allowing the viewer to escape the harsh and grotesque truths that have just been experienced in the film such as miscarriages, torture and even the amputation of a leg, along with many other deaths and gruesome images – the irony being that the film itself acts as an escape to the viewer. Del Toro also presents the innocence and strength of a young girl, fighting against the ideals of the chauvinist Francisco Franco, in which women were reduced to ‘Amas de casa’ (or maids) and infantilised through ‘la Guia de la Buena mujer’ (meaning the guide of a good woman), where women were given a physical guide showing them how to act and be. In many ways, Ofelia the protagonist uses her fantasies to not only escape the horrors of the Spanish civil war, but Guillermo uses them as an expression of freedom and of feminine identity, in which the roles of women and men are reversed – a world in which Ofelia must pass challenges and tests by being brave and strong both mentally and physically (qualities that were traditionally expected of men). Guillermo creates a sense of admiration for his protagonists. This admiration continues in another of his works. In The Shape of Water, he demonstrates the way in which love is displayed. This is done through Guillermo’s reference to Plato’s idea that water is an icosahedron - a shape with twenty sides. This odd reference, although not particularly obvious, implies that water has many faces – Del Toro uses this to show that love comes in different forms. In The Shape of Water, the amphibious creature forms a connection with Elisa, a mute girl working in a government facility in Baltimore, that extends further than human love. Del Toro makes the statement that love can be portrayed in a plethora of ways. In this case, this love is that of raw, unconventional, platonic attachment. Del Toro presents the challenges of desiring something outside of the social norm. Again, he uses his fantastical themes and amalgamates them with the raw beauty of human emotion to portray the Sublime philosophy, an essence that is so unheard of that it is simultaneously bewitching and fearsome. Guillermo Del Toro’s films aren’t complex in portrayal, he uses simplistic fairy tale- esque techniques. Instead, they are complex in theme. Del Toro has sympathy for all humanity, even the demonised Captain Vidal in El Laberinto Del Fauno, a prime example of a fascist, misogynist leader, who proves to be vulnerable and to a certain extent blameless due to the pressures surrounding him. What makes Del Toro so unique is his ability to find the beauty in horror, terror, desolation, misery and helplessness.