All artists are innate anarchists to some degree. The self-identification of the trait provides the impetus to justify the content that evokes from manifesting the pulsating visuals of a dream that almost every film fiend dreams of. Knowing where your heart lies as an individual and being able to contribute to that specific field is an art. And if the art of acknowledging the opportunity to make your dreams come true is a creature, then Guillermo Del Toro is the alpha Kaijo. Behind all the accreditations, profound reputation, craftsmanship, and assiduously carved masterpieces, – Two Oscars, of course, Guillermo Del Toro is simply a boisterous, fluffy kid who is singly gratified to become a part of the film fraternity and relishes the prospect of staying one. When he won the academy award for Directing Shape of Water at the 90th Annual Academy Award Ceremony he gave an indelible speech identifying himself amongst his camaraderie’s like Salma Hayek, Alfonso Cuaron, and many more as an immigrant who’s been living on their own and making their respective dreams come true in a foreign land amidst Hollywood elites. When the Shape of Water scooped the Best Picture award, he added to his speech by acknowledging every department of the film, finally concluding his speech by insinuating how he feels included among the Oscar-Winning Filmmakers. Now, winning an Oscar for a movie is not always an ever-dreaming achievement coming true. It is more of a sense of surmounting the inner urge to look at the world as an acknowledged creative individual with an insignia that represent dreams & hard work. And that’s precisely how Guillermo Del Toro affirmed his win with his blushed cheeks, pliant attire, and an endearing smile similar to that of a kid who just befriended ET.
Speaking of the creatures (extraterrestrial/mythological/comic-oriented), Guillermo Del Toro has made his name eponymous with mythical creatures with velvet backgrounds. From the outstandingly marvelous faun in Pan’s Labyrinth to the gruelly-contoured three-eyed baby (Enoch) in The Nightmare Alley, every creature is an epitome of his sprawling raconteur-ship that is so viscerally intertwined with the film’s narrative. Wherein the facial features of almost every featured creature are grotesquely hideous to behold, we can’t help but acknowledge that each creature is simply a blatant representation of inner demons harbored by the protagonists/characters in his films. They are indeed an alternate reality where the protagonist/characters are suppressed under their identities only to be unleashed in the final act. While acclaimed studious entities are trying to dispel the preconceived notions of sociality being a human thing, the extraterrestrial species created by the dexterous Del Toro contradict the fact that if we choose to place Del Toro’s menagerie of monsters on one mantle, we are bound to discover that all the monsters collectively share a staggering congenial relationship. Each creature is a personified emotion from a literary comic/novel/short story thriving to exude a satire that transfigures into a transcendental epiphany that settles all the logistics of the film by the end. Despite pouring life into the outlandish creatures, Guillermo Del Toro never succumbed to the pastiche of a historical comic, or a slapdash work of an animatronics or special effects artist, but he stretched his nerves by studying physiology to infuse life into the art with such meticulous detail. Almost every creature in his film is so assiduously woven to conjure repressed memories that they start juxtaposing with the film’s protagonist incessantly with a motive. But is Guillermo Del Toro simply an exceptionally fixated artist with his trademark creatures and sci-fi storylines, reveling in an insurmountable reputation as one of the most influential filmmakers? No sir. He is a gifted filmmaker who invented an eccentric ‘hour-glass’ storytelling format with his initials largely carved into the phenomenon.
Now let me address the elephant in the room, i.e., what is hourglass storytelling? Is it an ostensible hypothesis or a filmographic derivation of a Cinephile? Well, let’s just sit on the latter one. Here is my explanation: The fundamental function of an hourglass is to depict ceaseless time through grains of sand dropping from section A (upper oval chamber) to section B (lower oval chamber). When the upper chamber is empty, the hourglass will be inverted to continue the process. Now, traditionally, a film starts from the moment the glass is inverted and the sand starts dropping into the lower chamber. However, the runtime of the film is simply proportional to the upper chamber, and when the chamber is empty, the film concludes with no chance of inversion. So, what’s the matter with the lower chamber that is now pervaded with sand? Well, it simply represents the content/story the audience imbibes while watching the film. After the Upper Chamber (The Film) is done dropping content (sand) into the lower chamber (audience mind), the audience should walk out of the theater with whatever each individual can accumulate before the content disappears over time (the inversion). Regardless, when the audience walks out, they start recollecting, analyzing, and validating the sand (content) they have with time. Now, if the sand in the heads of the audience stays untouched for a very long time, then it simply means the film is a masterpiece because it refuses to get inverted. If, in any case, the audience succeeds in inverting the hourglass (their minds) and moves on with their lives, then the film didn’t make an everlasting impact, which, of course, is not a good sign. The more time the sand stays in the lower chamber (the heads of the audience), the more the film will prevail. The sooner it is inverted, the less it is to be remembered. With Guillermo Del Toro, the film is not fraught with inversion because as we commence the inversion, the film refuses to be forgotten by initiating the thought of viewing the film from the Creature’s perspective.
When we apply the same phenomenon, the films of Guillermo Del Toro strife within the applied theory because, as we walk out of the film, the creatures that he manifests in the heads start intercepting the cognitive abilities of the audience with their own unilateral stories, journeys, ideologies, travesties, and existence. This is exactly how his films influence the minds of his viewers by opening a new portal, the perspective of the creatures that were subjected to the respective conclusions destined in the film. When the viewers exit the auditorium, the recurring thoughts of the film split into two perspectives. One is the story and the other is the creature in the film. By spitting the imagery into two the film prevails in retaining a higher grip of minds only to emancipate the audience when the epiphany hits. Great films always leave the audience brooding over memories, and characters. When the ultimate epiphany hits, that’s when the film unclenches its grasp. This is also the prime and possible explanation, according to me, for why we freeze and ponder when someone promptly asks “What is your favorite film?” Because when the questions hit the cerebrum, the perennial memory casket in which we secure all memories only presents the film you had fun contemplating (until the epiphany hits) and not the film you had fun watching. While I’m well aware that this deliberation is deplorable with many disputable explanations, one can’t elude the fact that every Guillermo Del Toro film is a Picasso in its own way. Even Picasso has its faults, but who’s counting? As a filmmaker, he is so fixated on achieving Avant-garde frames, exquisite color palettes, and pristine shot divisions that it almost feels like beholding a decor of paintings that are in motion at 24 frames per second. That is precisely what motion pictures are all about in the first place. Guillermo Del Toro is one of the very few unrivaled filmmakers whose frames represent the maker’s craftsmanship. Many of those striking visuals collectively honor the art of storytelling through a visual medium made with sheer joy & accountability. So, let’s grab this opportunity to honor Guillermo Del Toro’s Filmography ranked from “Good” to “Best.”
11. Mimic (1997)
Del Toro’s open statement on studio executives constraining him from sprawling his creative liberty on the film Mimic not only justifies the film’s lacuna but also corroborates what he could’ve done if he had got his chance at breaching through the impenetrable requisites of studios. Commemorating his ordeal & contention with Harvey Weinstein (Miramax Company) to attain his desired final cut, Del Toro candidly confessed his father’s abduction in Mexico, a year after Mimic’s release, was far less painful than his time as Director at Miramax. Based on Donald A. Wollheim’s short story of the same name, Mimic chronicles the fatal pandemic called Stickler’s disease, caused by cockroaches that have plagued a whole generation of kids in New York and happen to be vicious enough to wipe out the future of the planet if not counter-jabbed as imminently as possible. Calculating the threat as an extinction-equivalent crisis, the CDC brings in an especially skilled entomologist, Susan Tyler, played by Mira Sorvino, who was one of the first women who came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against Harvey Weinstein, to develop a biological counter agent (called Judas breed) which successfully multiplies the metabolism of disease-spreading cockroaches, ultimately eradicating them.
In similitude to his narrative style, the Mimic propagates a strong, elongated premise that insinuates the film’s inevitable consequence and succeeds in extending the trepidation as we walk into the film expecting the personification of our grotesque image of the monster. If you are a fan of Bong Joon Ho’s Socio-political satire Host, then you are bound to be entertained much by Guillermo’s takes on the cure that turns out as a curse via a creature that mimics Human Beings. At a surface level, Mimic is simply a Dominic-repercussion of a failed lab experiment, but the subtext of the film constitutes a strong motive of dread-inducing emotions that contradicts human desperation and medical innovations that are used at the expense of life. Despite underperforming at the box office, Mimic is a quintessential sci-fi film with Del Toro’s haunting visual style and a captivating premise that simply promises something miraculous but winds up being a typical Hollywood film with a CGI man-eating creature. If you are interested in shady lab experiments, menacing environments, or jump scares, and have the itch to dwell on bureaucrats’ incompetency, this one is for you.
10. Blade II (2002)
A pregnant woman dies giving birth to a boy after surviving a morbid attack from a vampire. Thirty years into the story, the infant of the tragedy turns out to be a part-vampire and part-human entitled to hunt vampires from wreaking havoc. This is the hazy premise of Blade I from Marvel comics that launched the film franchise. And Guillermo Del Toro, who directed the much-anticipated sequel, continued the saga of Blade by focusing more on the personal struggle of the character that is determined to exonerate his mentor from captivity. This is just the beginning of the story that later on drools into a concurring pandemic that turns humans into voracious blood-craving vampires called Reapers – Creatures that reaped well from Guillermo Del Toro’s artistic intervention.
Although the film isn’t a conceived infant of Del Toro, he triumphs in infusing his narrative prowess and influx of monsters without overshadowing the superhero structure, which also happens to be the second superhero film in Hollywood played by a black actor: Wesley Snipes. Much like his severe creature films, Guillermo blindly trusts his assiduously imparted formula, i.e., prying into the perspective of monsters in the movie. Del Toro successfully develops undercurrent sympathy for the Reapers but refuses to dig deeper into the spectrum, probably because of the genre limitations and the franchise’s anchoring responsibilities. On the bright side, Blade 2 is one hell of an action-stuffed film with blazing guns, franchise motifs, and trademark blades that is so very fun to entrust our time with. Also, Blade 2 largely contributed to dispelling the speculations against Del Toro after his Mimic box-office failure.
9. Hellboy (2004)
Well, well, well, if it ain’t the ugliest, irascible, insolent Abe Sapien who’s on an endless pursuit to apprehend celestial creatures himself. Guillermo Del Toro’s first official international blockbuster was an esoteric tale of demons from hell. Hellboy, in today’s circumstances, might sound like a textbook reference to a superhero origin story, but back in the day, it was a litmus test for a filmmaker who strives to swim across the stream. And yes, Guillermo Del Toro succeeds in establishing an emotionally tangible side to a rigid velvet body with sharply pruned horns. Underneath the formidable figure, indestructible doom, fire-resistant body, and bestial horns, Hellboy is a bunny in a beast’s clothing. This is precisely what makes the audience accept the monkey boy from the earth with not so stealthy movements to hide from the light of fame, as his father desired.
Summoned by the ill-intentioned Rasputin during WWII, in favor of the Führer himself, Hellboy is a demon with an incorrigible glutton for punishment trait, adapted, secured, toned, and bred by the scientist who aspires to hail Hellboy as a testament of love. Love is capable of turning beasts into beauties, which is what the film is all about. With Hellboy, Guillermo Del Toro excels in every department by flaunting exceptional craftsmanship, rendering fewer graphic/CGI interventions with the help of renowned veteran Ron Perlman (Hell Boy), who dons the demon suit & makeup, not to mention his attitude with veracity to question the actual demons themselves. The film’s intentions are clear: to combine mythical anecdotes with cinematic liberations and the passion needed by a filmmaker to persuade the audience to accept Demon as one of their own.
8. Cronos (1993)
Cronos is a clear demonstration of what Guillermo Del Toro aspires to do as a filmmaker: to invent and to create a visually marvelous fictional fantasy world and to create empathy for creatures/monsters/vampires/spectral presences. Every film by Del Toro is hypnotic therapy for the audience to root for the creature. In Cronos, this is what he accomplishes by cajoling viewers into rooting for a blood-sucking vampire. And Guillermo has been achieving that ever since Cronos: A story about a fairy beetle (an ornate, scarab-shaped mechanical device) that inoculates a frail old scientist with eternal life. Soon, things get tawdry with the scientist’s craving for blood. Man’s greed for immortality is eternal! Though deemed heavenly, every entity with the ability to imbue eternity carries a curse. Similarly, the device in Cronos bestows eternal life with its own set of shortcomings involving a ravenous thirst for blood, an unruly coup of enemies, and an internal conflict.
The film is an inventive take on human desperation that spreads rampantly, featuring-of course-a grossly off-putting creature that does the job of ultimately putting Guillermo Del Toro on a pedestal, nudging his audience into describing the filmmaker’s work with the epithet “King of Creatures” in the coming future. Similar to every film, Guillermo Del Toro loves to test his protagonists by placing them in a ‘pick-one-pill’ situation where the decision sort of glorifies the horror the protagonist partook in before the conclusion of the saga. Henceforth, every arch of his protagonist is defined by the decision he takes. Cronos promulgates one such classic decision-making climax that sifts the protagonist from the charge of desperation. Even though the film only caters to his long-loving fans with Del Toro’s trademark creatures and falls short in terms of conveying the filmmaker’s competency, it still strides well in bits and pieces worth paying attention to.
7. Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)
How hard is it for humans to accept the significance of co-existence, i.e. sharing the planet with dinosaurs, demons, creatures, etc.? We will talk about it soon. Well, eradicating the digression, the consensus on Hellboy being Guillermo Del Toro’s most passionate project protrudes in each frame with a much-explored storyline and a 3-dimensional protagonist: The Hellboy. The big connoisseur of color palettes once again swings his wand to take his audience into the velvet world inundated with mythological cults and creatures but also caters to the suckers of fairytale anecdotes with a well-constructed plotline of a Prince breaking a truce between the human race and magical creatures to awaken the Golden Army. As required, the Boy with a Tail (Hell Boy) along with his ensemble must come to the world’s rescue and save humanity from becoming the prey of the Golden Army. Released 4 years after the success of its prequel, Hellboy: Golden Army isn’t just a successful rendition of a well-received demon story but also a silver lining to the Filmography of Del Toro that vouches for his innate ability to carry forward the eternal torch ignited by the likes of James Whale (Frankenstein) and Shadow of a Doubt (Alfred Hitchcock).
Every Del Toro film is a culmination of visual pleasure of its own, but what makes each film stand out alone is the master’s anomalous way of storytelling that is deeply entrenched in the features of characters that happen to be outlandish creatures. Fundamentally, Hell Boy is an inhabitant of a dark world summoned onto earth to wreck deleterious effects by the malevolent Rasputin, but the film blooms when the story veers into a scientist’s (Hell Boy’s adopted father) sanguine perspective, which is to nurture the demon with love, thus keeping the bad on the good side. With Golden Army, Guillermo Del Toro aces the effective usage of CGI and puts it in a parallel motion with the story’s unilateral motive. Also, the film tantalizes the possibility of Hell Boy succumbing to the extremely inducing chants of Demons from his world helps in keeping the audience with a benefit of the doubt only to be shattered in the end with a ….they haven’t lived happily forever epilogue.
6. The Devil’s Backbone (2001)
Half a decade before amassing international acclaim with Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo Del Toro sent out a high-intensity beam of light into the sky with the gothic horror tale set in the Spanish Civil War era (1936–1939), The Devil’s Backbone: A film that harbors a filmmaker’s artistic expression at its pique. Not every paranormal entity is a menace. Some are just lost souls struggling to find a way out of the cavernous pit called darkness. The film sets in motion through an intimidating prologue where an inert missile sits dormant in the courtyard of a secluded orphanage, sheltering children who have lost their dear ones to war, tragedy, pestilence, and fate. Well, if you are disinterested in the socio-political drama involving fascists, republicans, nationalists, and all the statecraft jargon, let me elucidate the reality of the film, i.e., an emotionally stirring Ghost Story with a dark mystery. The film solely focuses on the new inmate, Carlos, who is captivated by the sitting missile in the middle of the orphanage and chronicles his life as he tries to adapt to life in the near-dilapidated paranormal orphanage. Also, he happens to be enrolled in the bed where a boy disappeared under mysterious circumstances. And everything after that is a ruminative stroll into the darkly dreaming characters with hidden agendas.
The Devil’s Backbone is a mere exception to the latter films of Del Toro. The film is a sublime satire on the hypocrisy of humans, if not the sitting missile that is human doing. With Devil’s Backbone, Del Toro contrives to unveil the dark, lurking identities of people, places, and things one at a time. To begin with, the orphanage is not a shelter for the needy, nor do the people it houses possess any altruistic will. The film is a reticent spell on revealing the psychological toll an ongoing war can have on people. Whereas many films have conclusively imparted the vitality of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Guillermo Del Toro’s storytelling prowess exalts in conveying how a social condition can largely impact the civilians of a nation. Each titular character in the film is inexorably engulfed in the canons of war; it almost justifies every cruel character in the film. On a surface level, the film only spotlights the disappeared kid and his congenial relationship with the new one. But deeper in the abyss of storytelling, the film is a masterpiece that questions the evolution of human behavior with a menacing premise and a tragic conclusion.
5. Pacific Rim (2013)
Now, let’s get back to the aforementioned question; how hard is it for humans to accept the significance of co-existence, i.e., sharing the planet with dinosaurs, demons, creatures, etc..? Especially after taking into consideration that we are the reason behind the summation of monsters. Remember who was the reason behind the advent of the infamous Japanese Kaijo Gojira? If you like monster verse, the first installment clearly depicted how humans testing Hiroshima in the Pacific resulted in Godzilla awakening from an eternal hibernation. To begin with, long before the evolution of the human species, the planet belonged to behemoth pre-historic Goliaths-deemed-Gods with diabolical abilities according to the inscriptions of Kaiju comics. But, as the planet began to evolve, the Kaijus gradually faded from view, only to hibernate indefinitely. Obviously, trusting the planet in man’s hand, and hoping that he will maintain the balance between man and nature, in retrospect, was a mistake of a lifetime. And when humans got the taste of becoming Supreme Heavenly Entities, the destruction began. And the debris incurred from the assumption occulted man’s compassion towards coexisting species. Many man-made catastrophic disasters such as Plastic, global warming, greenhouse gasses, deforestation, and whatnot. We can convince ourselves by citing the whole anti-nature phenomenon ignited by humans in comics, but none possess enough gumption to look into an activist’s eye and yell the same. Or convince the marine creatures that it’s just a fictional tale while they are stifled by plastic underneath the ocean.
Guillermo Del Toro’s most expensive film, so far, is not simply a lavishly attractive motion picture that checks out every single criterion of Hollywood’s most lucrative larger-than-life film franchise. Nor is it an urge of a studio executive to squander on taut Avant-grade CGI films. Pacific Rim is a pictorial prophecy of the future by an artist’s cathartic eye. At least that’s what I felt, even though the film professes otherwise. Unlike the legendary monsterverse multimedia films, Pacific Rim sympathizes with the ordeal endured by humans from the subsequent advent of Kaiju through an interdimensional portal underneath the earth. It was made by humans, after all. I concur, but do not concede. As a dear fan and Kaijo fiend, I found it hard to gulp the human savvy poured into creative, excessively massive, futuristic, mechanically maneuvered counterparts called Jaegers. One must not refrain from praising the contentment that comes from watching a motion-picture miracle with creatively choreographed stunts on screen. If you are a parent of mischievous toddler siblings, then Pacific Rim is an eternal pacifier that keeps your kids gaping in astonishment until they turn old enough to know better. Pacific Rim may not be an ambitious allegory, but it is an epitome of a Hollywood blockbuster to squish your couch pillows as you watch, led by the emerging Charlie Huffman, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikochi, and a couple of neck-hurting elliptical machines, ergonomics, and the purposeless Kaijus. Plan it on the weekend when your friends sulk about coming over for movie night. Through Pacific Rim, Del Toro tries to be callous of the film’s moral principles but makes sure to deliver what he aspired to as a lover of fictional stories.
4. Crimson Peak (2015)
After the magnanimous box-office feature, Del Toro finds solace in his atmospheric gothic horror tale, Crimson Peak, reinvigorating his hallmark creature-centric genre, pinnacling in an exquisite velvet theme and the derogation of human relationships. Crimson Peak is Del Toro exercising to unlearn things to find his voice in the base. It operates as an augmented visual story of Guillermo Del Toro that unequivocally harbors dark-licentiousness emotions dotted with giant immersive metaphors.
Films helmed by visually fortified auteurs seldom rely on the inimitable performances of actors. Still, Crimson Peak defies the tenets propagating Jessica Chastain’s intrusive portrayal as Lucille, the devil in human clothing. She is so vivaciously horrific in the film that I wonder what she and Annie Wilkes (from Misery, 1990) would do if they crossed paths in some altar universe. In Crimson Peak, she plays the big sister of a gallant, attractive, and alarmingly opaque Tom Huddleston, who magically lures an impressionable writer (Mia Wasikowska) into marrying her. And what follows is a series of premonitions that invoke dread and dreams, and, as anticipated, a ramshackle house infested with ghosts and their activities. Crimson Peak primarily focuses on the travesty of a newlywed bride isolated in an enigmatic house and a hostile husband’s sister colluding to get her out of the picture. The film once again ascertains the intentions of Ghosts being good just like in his previous films where the Devil is not the Demon. Guillermo Del Toro’s Crimson Peak relies heavily on visually appealing frames and a world filled with crimson themes, fog, fear, and romance. The film stands alone as one of the most pristine creations of Del Toro, which is as beautiful as the demon in the climax.
3. The Shape of Water (2017)
The Shape of Water is a woman’s intimate relationship with solitude. Also, an amphibian creature from the Amazon whom the tribal regard as the GOD who’s now lingering at the mercy of humans. The marriage of these two virtual recluse characters is what we are meant to behold in this freaky fairy tale that is so novel at heart that it almost feels too honest to fathom because we are simply humans, like the film’s antagonist, Colonel Richard Stickland, with an electrocuted stick to torture the God’s absolute miracle. The film is so meticulous in its making that it surprises with clarity and unambiguous motivation. Sometimes tragedy brings peace to the characters that are involved. The film opens in the poised environment of its titular Sally Hawkins’s condo, tracking her mundane routine that involves egg-peeling, bathing, and self-indulgence, besides the character’s innocence that pervades throughout the screen. This time, Guillermo Del Toro alters the vantage point of his audience from the magnificent Creature (played in a suit by another miracle in the contortionist world—Doug Jones) to the reclusive Protagonist—a self-contented mute woman with contagiously brewing empathy. The film’s an inventive exposition of the aforementioned ‘Hour-glass’ storytelling. As we invert the hourglass, it starts dropping the emphatic story of the creature thus retaining the audience longer than expected.
Man is the cure and the curse. As quoted in another creature-featured box-office biggie, Meg (2018), “We (humans) discover nature’s utmost miracle and we destroy it”. Films with such didactic theories are always centered on the “Man vs. Nature” creed. We find something wondrous and we can’t stop ourselves from destroying it. In The Shape of Water, the man represented by demonic Michael Shannon traps an amphibian humanoid with celestial abilities from the abyss of the cavernous Amazon, and the rest is the turmoil of the creature captured and held hostage amidst the greed and narcissism of humans. The film is beyond the possibility of interpretation, unlike contemporary motion pictures. It is a meditative allegory of the nature of “human anthropocentrism” and the destruction entailed when it’s incorporated into bureaucracy. The film stays incoherent in substantiating its enchanting premise and the aqua-isolating world – it stays tenacious in telling the symbiotic relationship of man with nature. As if trying to infuse euphemism into a cursed adage smeared with cruelty and injustice. The film’s original score by Alexandre Desplat plays the role of a reliable liaison with conviction, contrary to the contemporarily orchestrated notes that act as a surrogate for the mute girl’s voice. “There’s always a creature, and it’s going to be great because it’s Del Toro’s signature,” said Octavia Spencer (who plays a promising role as a sympathetic friend) during the Actors (Drama) roundtable session at Hollywood Reporter. And that’s precisely how Guillermo Del Toro established his Guillermo-Esque genre, which serves as a catalyst to the story he aspires to tell as a filmmaker, and that’s 29-years-in-making accreditation. If you are still skeptical about the significance of the film, let me just help you embrace the symbolism in the film. It is not always the creature that represents the creature in the film. Guillermo Del Toro’s artistic invasion of creatures was not simply limited to the ruminative design of creatures. Through his Academy Award-Winning Film, he unearths the sordid nature of humans and how the traits we inherit/cultivate will decide which side we are on. In Shape of Water, it’s not just the amphibian god who is suffering at the expense of his natural abilities playing the Creature, it’s the Protagonist and the humans who empathize with her who’s been victimized by the hazardous nature of Human Beings that are the real creatures who are suffering to find solace to alleviate pain.
2. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
To me, Pan’s Labyrinth is a glorified attempt to pay homage to the practice of storytelling to kids by parents during the early stages of their lives. The human brain is not always unpredictable. The perception of the world, living beings, nature, things, fame, money, and emotions distinguishes between the minds that perceive. With Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo Del Toro plunges into that very perception of a little girl’s brain of absolute purity; it constructs the coping mechanism of a human brain into a fictional fantasy world. Regarded as the bedazzling sapphire amongst his crown-of-Filmography, this 2000’s Spanish masterpiece is what turned the heads of film audiences and Hollywood studio executives across the world toward the craftsmanship of Guillermo Del Toro. Every film by De Toro is a metaphor for the horrors of the world the film’s set in. Likewise, Pan’s Labyrinth details the post-era of the Spanish Civil War with an interconnected narrative structure that crosses paths with the mythical world of imagination and the forbidden world of reality. The film sublimely imparts the mantra of “imagination is the only medicine to survive in this cruel world,” and firmly sticks to the notion through the little girl who thrives on fables and fictional anecdotes.
It is the story of Ofelia, an 11-year-old innocuous girl, who joins her stepfather, also, the cruel Captain of the FET regime (played flawlessly by Sergi Lopez), and her pregnant mother. Moments after her arrival, Ofelia finds an enigmatic arcade engraved with mythical creatures leading into a labyrinth. Captivated by the beguiling nature of the labyrinth, she starts noticing a fairy that leads her into the labyrinth inhabited by an old-oversized, eroded creature called a faun, who greets the girl as Princess Mauna and assigns her 3 perilous tasks to regain her sacredness. This is where the film splits into two perceptions. As an audience, we get to see the world the film is steeped in through two characters. One is the perception of Fidel (the Captain and Stepfather), who is vengeful, heartless, and perceives the world as a blood-driven game of power over the powerless. And the latter is the perception of a little girl Ofelia who is endearingly optimal, ambitious, creative, and innocent at heart. Pan’s labyrinth is a work of art. The top-grade CGI effects, the social milieu of the world the film is set in, a plethora of levitating fairies, colossal creatures reminiscent of Grandma’s bedtime anecdotes, and most importantly, the darkness of fascism. The film doesn’t pretend nor masquerade as a bright, fictional fairy tale to pump up the boisterousness of kids. Instead, it depicts the massacres, cruelty, dominance, and disparity of the world that we are a part of. As a filmmaker, Guillermo Del Toro soars by creating a fictitious fantasy world as a counter agent to the blood-soaked world that bears hatred above everything, ultimately silver-lining the film by offering the characters deserving absolution with no ambiguous alternatives. There is a gamut of emotions, expositions, altercations, and subplots in the film, but it’s the ideology of the filmmakers that keeps us hooked throughout with succulent narration. Every human action is a translated reaction distilled from the fictional world we create in our heads. We are the natural creatures of imagination. And our imaginations are the alter egos of the world we are part of. They serve as the mitigating factors for the pain that the real-world causes. Through fictional worlds, we vent out all the cathartic urges so as to stay put in the real world. Similarly, the little girl in Pan’s Labyrinth struggles with the rapidly swerving conditions of her lifetime. And the psychology of the little girl who’s stranded in a forbidden land is what Guillermo Del Toro showed to the audience. This is also the reason he is one of the most celebrated, influential, accountable, dexterous, artistic auteurs of all time.
1. Nightmare Alley (2021)
Guillermo del Toro’s most ambitious and star-studded film, Nightmare Alley, has survived the test of time with recurring pandemic situations and the dwindling interest of multitudes in enjoying theatrical experiences. Nevertheless, it made an alluring impact during its turn, snagging 4 Academy Award nominations. Nightmare Alley is embellished with an ensemble of renowned thespians like Bradley Cooper, Rooney Mara, Toni Collette, Ron Perlman, and the GOAT William Dafoe. The film is redemption of the neo-noir genre that takes its audience through a psychological ride into the abyss of the protagonist’s capricious head who becomes the victim of his own sly-doings, leaving nothing but the debris of self-conceited traits. The film serves as a subtle depiction of Guillermo Del Toro’s diegetic invocations, horror motifs, and stylistic hallmarks with one of the most epiphanic climaxes in recent times. Above all, the metaphoric representation of film through the embalmed baby (Enoch) in a jar is what stands out as we tread deeper into the philosophy. The film uses every cardinal trope of mystery to the fullest, leaving the audience craving more. It is a film that makes you ponder and invokes trepidation, as you did. The dystopian color palette is augmented by opaque characters with permeability, and the transcendental experience the production design creates; exemplifies the 1946 novel of the same name that the film is based upon. The film’s a séance conjoined by the audience that stirs visceral dread through its dark setting. Nightmare Alley is an antique relic of eternal age. It is an exemplary amalgamation of neo-noir with a psychological mystery, serving as a quintessential Guillermo Del Toro baby, with every facet shining a light on CINEMA.
Stan Carlisle is alone but not lonely. His desperation to surmount pinnacles in life accompanies him along his journey. In other words, he is the GenZ who got his birth timeline wrong. After losing the last of his cognate connections, Stan’s ravenous desire to go big leads him to a desolate carnival infested with clairvoyants, geeks, tricksters, grifters, and drunkards. The business is obsolete, and so is the reputation. There he befriends a clairvoyant and her husband, who uses cold-reading and coded language to track information from their audience. Despite the warning of the clairvoyant, Stan surreptitiously steals the book and imbibes the inscriptions to start his practice as a clairvoyant who can speak to the dead. Del Toro is infamous for his Hunter archetype, in Nightmare Alley; fate plays the former, haunting Stan to the point where the wrath of karma perpetually damages his soul. He becomes obsessed with gaining a reputation, money, and fame. Of all the things that could harm him, his incorrigible desperation gets the worst of him. Fate has wound up his neck with a tenacious grip—depriving him of conscience and commonsense to see the irony of things that dance around him celebrating his imminent downfall. When Stan falls, it’s the epiphany and enlightenment that help him survive. Not many filmmakers desire to inflict their protagonist with their best weapon, but Guillermo makes sure to swing the hardest and most ruthless whip that shatters his viewers’ but soars in staying pertinent with the film’s fundamental theme of mysticism & deception. The film is a didactic allegory that is so meticulously made to entertain the audience, leveraging the best out of the darkness clinging onto the characters. To encapsulate the film’s motive in one line, uttered by the film’s very own character, goes as such: “When a man believes his own lies, starts believing that he has the power, he’s got shut-eye.” That’s Stan’s character arc in one premonitory warning. Each character in the film is destined to create an impetus for the film. Nothing is reliable or trustworthy. Basically, the film’s a cosplay of House of Cards set in a carnival, not the White House. Democracy is a myth, and so are an overnight success and the desperation of a man. After all, we are the puppeteers of fate. All under the scrutiny of Enoch (the three-eyed freak in a jar)—the staple creature of Del Toro.
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Guillermo Del Toro Links: IMDb, Wikipedia