GDT On Fairy Tales, Part 4

The last in my series of GDT quotes on the topic of fairy tales:

Interview by Elvis Mitchell

EM: We’ve talked about this before, but one of the things that used to make movies terrifying–all those B pictures we grew up on, the fantastical stories we’ve talked about, even Grimm’s fairy tales, is that–
GT: Children die.

EM: Absolutely.
GT: That aspect of things is mostly sanitized from even the news now. When you’d see footage of a war in the ’70s, you would get the occasional retina-burning image of a family running away, being doused with napalm, or a little girl screaming. To me, that’s war. It’s not soldiers in uniforms looking cool or great night footage of rockets flying. War is when it hits your child or your mother or your grandmother. When you read any of the great fairy tales, be it Oscar Wilde or Hans Christian Andersen, or be it in the oral tradition, they all have a very strong element of pathos.

EM: Which is something that you have in Pan’s Labyrinth. In fairy tales we’re used to the possibility of wrongs being righted. But that doesn’t necessarily happen In this movie.
GT: Because the little girl might have the moment that is an exact quote of the little matchbook girl in Hans Christian Andersen, where she lights the last match and she is finally in a happy place, and she smiles, and then she dies.

EM: But what you get In American movies Is that kids represent innocence, and you can’t kill off innocence. So there’s a belief that’s sort of contrary to what you’re saying–that basically evil can consume everybody.
GT: Evil has the characteristic of being resilient. It’s harder to work toward what’s right, the common good. It’s easier to be selfish.

EM: So you’re saying that evil is easier because it’s an easy way out.
GT: It’s the easiest way out. It is the straight path, the shining path, the most tempting path. The rewards of modesty or goodness or kindness are far more subtle.

EM: But those rewards that you’re talking about–the ones that come with sacrifices and compromises–are about being an adult.
GT: That’s why I think the best way to address these little truths is in fables. This conversation is taking place, and we may be nodding or not, but the reality is that fables get at what we’re talking about so much more efficiently.

EM: Do you think you could make a movie like Pan’s Labyrinth in America?
GT: No. Never. Impossible. Because the biggest stigma of genre or fantasy movies is that they are supposed to be watered down. The studio’s mentality is like, “How do we make this fully accessible?” If we had tested the movie with an audience, the ending would be completely different.

EM: If Bambi [1942] were made today, his mother wouldn’t die.
GT: No. But Walt Disney, the original man, anti-Semite or not, the guy understood the value of pathos. Fantasia [1940], Pinocchio [1940], Alice in Wonderland [1951]–they’re all full of darkness.

EM: Do you feel now like you’ve had a chance to expunge some of the darker fairy tales that you wanted to get out of your system?
GT: I would like to continue. You know, Hellboy II is also a bit of an exploration of the fairy world. It’s a funny thing: I have an impediment that most certainly makes me the least accurate judge of what it is, but to me, Hellboy is the sort of film I’ve done that I group with The Devil’s Backbone and Cronos and Pan’s Labyrinth. I don’t group it with Blade II [2002] or Mimic. I think of Hellboy as a personal movie, strangely enough. I can defend Blade II and say that I love it, but it’s not as personal a movie in the way that Hellboy is for me. Hellboy II is even more personal to me than Hellboy. I really have a grand plan for taking him all the way to the fulfillment of his destiny.

EM: And you’re not a guy who tends to be drawn toward happy endings.
GT: Not really. There was a great phrase that I love in a screenplay written about a decade ago where a demon says to a guy, “Lost causes are more beautiful.” I really believe that.

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