Magnificence and the Beast: the romance in Guillermo del Toro’s filmography

No active conductor can fuse such different tones and at the same time preserve harmony like Guillermo del Toro. The filmmaker has a childish imagination; his films are populated with monsters, fairies, ghosts, vampires and robots, but never in the traditional way. His films are serious, not to mention terrifying, quirky, and sometimes all of that at once.

As unique as Del Toro’s films are stylistically, they are also based on tribute. Pacific Rim is a mecha-animated anime, The Shape of Water is a spiritual sequel to The Woman and the Monster, and The Scarlet Summit might as well have a hammer horror logo in the credits. In a nutshell, The style of Guillermo Del Toro combines the Gothic with the fantastic imagery and childlike innocence of fairy tales. Like del Toro, Gothic has a fixation on the past and mixes horror and romance. He also has great empathy for the rare and outcast. There is a fairy tale whose themes and motifs appear again and again in del Toro’s work, which he adapted almost directly: Beauty and the Beast.

Inner and outer beauty

Beauty and the Beast comes from 18th century France. The story, first written by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, has been told countless times. In 1946, Jean Claude Cocteau portrayed the story in haunting black and white, while Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise immortalized it in animation in 1991. The archetypes of history are also those that del Toro has visited on many occasions.

Hellboy introduces a romance between the hero and Liz Sherman that wasn’t in the original Mike Mignola comics. But still, this relationship is the cornerstone of the film.

Hellboy, Liz and John Myers seem to have a love triangle. After seeing Liz and Myers together, Hellboy admits to Liz that he wishes he could do something about the way she looks and tells her that he understands why she is normally attracted to someone. Even now never in doubt which man Liz loves. In the final act of the film, Hellboy and Liz share a kiss while being enveloped in blue flames while Myers watches. He tells the scene with a voiceover and says, “What makes a man a man? Are they the origin? The way it’s brought to life? I don’t think so. You are the decisions that you make. Not how to start things, but how to choose to end them ”.

This ending, in which two “weird ones” hug while a normal man is left alone, speaks of the difference between the director’s vision and the original story. The love of beauty gives the animal back its true form, that of a handsome man: normality is the animal’s reward for its improvement and a virtue in itself. But not for Del Toro.

Del Toro spoke when he first saw The Woman and the Monster. As Kay Lawrence, played by Julie Adams, glides across the surface of the Amazon, the creature watches her from below. “I felt an almost existential desire that they end together,” said del Toro in a 2017 interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “Of course it didn’t happen”.

This is the thesis of The Shape of Water. Not only is it Guillermo del Toro’s more outspoken shoot of Beauty and the Beast, but it also employs the director’s archetype of youth monsters: Frankenstein, King Kong, and of course Black Lagoon. Instead of the creature’s fascination for the female lead encountering rejection and horror, creates a tender romance without the need for normalcy.

Of monsters and men

One of the themes of Beauty and the Beast is the old adage not to judge a book by its cover. To emphasize this, throughout the story, Bella is almost always followed by a handsome but hideous man. In Cocteau’s film they are played by the same actor. This contrast a kind soul, rejected because of its ugly appearance, against an evil soul with a beautiful shell, del Toro clearly fascinates del Toro.

In The Shape of Water, this inequality is embodied in Colonel Richard Strickland, an ideal image of the (white) man of mid-century America. He also tortures assets, has a perverse attraction to Eliza, and is described by Eliza’s friend Giles in the opening story as “The Monster That Tried to Destroy Everything”. All of the likeable characters in The Shape of Water belong to a fringe group in the United States.. Finally, del Toro said he drew on his experience as a Mexican-American immigrant in making the film.

This distinction is repeated in all of Del Toro’s work. Devil’s Backbone is a ghost story, but the ghost is benign and just wants to move on to the next plane. The real evil is Jacinto, the guardian of the orphanage and a murderer with the face of an angel. Del Toro repeats this trick in Scarlet Summit. There is an evil that inhabits Allerdale Hall, but it is not the ghosts that are grotesque and terrifying as they are. They are just victims of the Sharpe brothers, trying to warn the film’s heroine, Edith Cushing, so that she can avoid her fate.

In all of the Guillermo Del Toro films, Rogues are human most of the time: Jacinto, Rasputin, Lucille Sharpe, Strickland and, what’s worse, Captain Vidal in Pan’s Labyrinth. The only evil monster in this work is the Pale Man, and yet he is a replacement for the dictator Francisco Franco, the great evil behind the fascist garrison that Vidal commands. Fascism is an evil in the human world, and it is worse than anything dark magic can conjure up.

As a matter of fact, the most likable villain in Guillermo del Toro’s filmography is an inhuman one: The Elven Prince Nuada in Hellboy 2: The Golden Army. Nuada is disgusted by humanity’s destruction of the natural world, driven by greed, and tries to end it. The film ends with Hellboy, Liz and Abe Sapian leaving the BPRD and choosing to retreat to a quiet, isolated life. However, the moment of greatest fear does not come from a human character, but from another Del Toro monster.

When Nuada unleashes a forest elemental on the heroes, Manhattan devastates it. While most films would only use something like this for shows, del Toro made a different choice in Hellboy 2. Destruction of the Elemental (the last of its kind) it is received with sadness instead of celebration. The city will be saved, but at a low emotional price, which the director deliberately emphasizes.

This brings us to the next release of Guillermo Del Toro: The Alley of Lost Souls. Although the theme of “Beauty and the Beast” is less present here than in his previous work, You can expect a ton of complex explorations of whatever the villain in the filmmaker’s work was: humanity.

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