Presented by Mike Dempsey
I’d grab the camera and tell people what to do and, when I was 14, someone told me that it was called directing.
You only find yourself when you disobey. Disobedience is the beginning of responsibility, I think.
Guillermo del Toro expresses his political views with considerable subtlety but his visual style with considerable panache. He is fascinated with codes and coding; using colour to communicate emotion and relationships, together with multiple visual clues – so brush up on your semiotics! Having become frustrated with his special effects studio and making shows for Mexican TV, he took a postgraduate screenwriting course for which he wrote the script for Cronos, which geminated as an idea in 1984. Following battles with the Mexican Film Academy, who disagreed with his conviction that he could make an Art House vampire movie, it took him over four years to raise the finance. But Cronos was eventually made, and received with such critical acclaim that it was nominated for 11 Mexican Film Academy Awards, and won 9. It also went on to win the Critic’s Week Grand Prize in Cannes.
(dir. Guillermo del Toro, 1993)
Cronos, del Toro’s “Art House Vampire Movie” has themes of Vampirism, Alchemy, anti-Capitalism, and anti-Catholicism (note the Inquisition branding mark on the Alchemist’s hand). It has a mixed visual style, including nods to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Hitchcock, Roeg, and even comic books. A film-makers’ film-maker; del Toro delights the eye and mind with extensive symbolism whilst examining the bleak, very human sadness and loneliness of the transformation of main character, Jesus Gris. Through its use of Catholic themes and motifs, Cronos represents a connection between vampiric horror and religion which is really all about the inescapable connection of life and death. But del Toro also manages to inject humour into the film and his only regret was not keeping the storyboards that he’d drawn.
THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE
(dir. Guillermo del Toro, 2001)
The Devil’s Backbone, is the first instalment of del Toro’s duo about the Spanish Civil War, taking on themes such as the brutality of war and loss of innocence. Creepily atmospheric and haunting, this filmic treat is both a potent ghost story and an intelligent political allegory. A subtle tale of terror, this psychological suspense piece again stars Federico Luppi, as Casares, and Marisa Paredes as Carmen. Helping them mind their orphanage are Jacinto (Eduardo Noriega), the groundskeeper, and Conchita (Irene Visedo), a teacher. The orphanage hides a large cache of gold, used to back the Republican cause, and the orphanage is subject to attacks from Franco’s troops. There is an unexploded bomb waiting to be defused in the home’s courtyard … teacher who is also involved with Jacinto. Casares and Carmen are aligned with the Republican loyalists, and are hiding a large cache of gold that’s used to back the Republican treasury; perhaps not coincidentally, the orphanage has also been subject to attacks from Franco’s troops, and an unexploded bomb waits to be defused in the home’s courtyard. One day, a boy named Carlos (Fernando Tielve) arrives at the home, looking for a place to stay after being left behind by his parents. Casares and Carmen take him in, and the boy soon strikes up an unlikely friendship with Jaime (Inigo Garces), a boy with a reputation for tormenting other kids. But Carlos soon begins having visions of a mysterious apparition he can’t identify, and hears strange stories about a child named Santi who went missing the day the bomb appeared near the orphanage. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
(dir. Guillermo del Toro, 2006)
The second of del Toro’s duo on the Spanish Civil War, Pan’s Labyrinth, tells the story of Ofelia, who finds escape from the brutal practices of her military stepfather, the upheaval of moving home, and the general unpleasantness surrounding Franco’s victory in 1944 by heading into a fairy tale labyrinth, led by a menacing and mysterious faun. Part parable, part dark fantasy, part political war movie, Pan’s Labyrinth has an almost indescribable magical quality of wide appeal. Unexpectedly violent as well as undeniably bewitching, the film features a beautiful central performance from Ivana Baquero as Ofelia, as well as several iconic turns from Doug Jones as the faun and the pale man, one of cinema’s most terrifying creations.