by Enrique Urbina
Guillermo del Toro has made his own authentic cinematic aesthetics. In our times, there are few blockbuster movie directors who search for that: to be unique in the media, to be known from their different ways of telling a story. I’m not an expert in this topic, however, I think many readers agree with this opinion. Del Toro’s works are easily recognized by their originality; but also by the artistic roots which are underneath, but emerge at the same time, from them. Unlike most modern superheroes movies (because nowadays, it looks like many producers are more interested in showing the hero rather than building up a world and new interpretation of it), we can distinguish the mexican’s inspirations and influences, both cinematic and literary. No one will deny that, although H.P. Lovecraft hated movies, he is one of his most important indirect teachers. Del Toro’s monsters and atmospheric tastes are very similar to Lovecraft’s; no wonder why we’re still waiting for his At The Mountains of Madness big screen adaptation.
From this point, we can understand how he easily made a new version (a reinterpretation, I dare to say) of Hellboy, which is at the same time, based on many weird tales characteristics. And going further in this “subgenre”, we can’t forget about Arthur Machen and his Deep impact on Del Toro. I think he is a key author for understanding Del Toro’s themes; his atmospherics are a nuclear link for enlightening many of his most important movies visuals, especially those in which the protagonists or the main characters are children. Pan’s Labyrinth is the cusp, the most evident example of Machen’s influence. The communicating links between, for example The Great God Pan and The White People (if you haven’t read those Machen’s short horror stories you might want to reconsider your passion for Guillermo’s art (so read them now!)) in the movie are impressive. From the little girl who gets lost in the woods, to the hollow trees, and from the faun’s well to, of course the whole symbolism about maternity and magic, the movie boils with these common places of Arthur Machen’s literature. They are presented in a very obscure and opaque way, so the next time you see Pan’s Labyrinth try to find them; you maybe will catch all of the uterine/maternal images that are spread throughout the movie. You will see them in Pan’s horns, in the hollow tree, and in Ofelia’s journeys to a deeper part of the world (the Pale Man’s palace, the tree, the well, the labyrinth), like a return to the womb. The next image shows in another way all of the similarities between Ofelia’s journey and the narrations of the girl in the green book of The White People.
And I think the relationship of these authors is much more profound way. What does Machen and Lovecraft have in common, besides the fantastic imagery, with Guillermo del Toro? Maybe their baroque way of treating and giving life to their fictional worlds. Take to your minds the images, descriptions and world of these three artists, you will see that they tend to have monsters or places with a lot of little details that cause the reader or viewer to not to be able to make a general description of what he sees. The reader only sees machinery, tentacles, woods without a form. That takes us to discover another element in which these three authors rely on: the paradox.
Those three unify, in their fiction, things that are contrary in nature. They write about The Thing That Should Not Be. The faun, the witch princesses, the dancing rocks in Machen, the undefinable horror in Lovecraft, the sacrilege between nature and humanity. And Del Toro? He does what years before would have been unthinkable: the fusion of the machine and nature, the organic with inorganic. It is a beautiful paradox, but yet uncanny. We can observe it in each one of his movies: the Chronos invention, the labyrinth’s structure, the Jaegers, etc. This paradox is also the reconciliation of the old and new, tradition and modernity. It is a new type of horror. It is the beauty of the terrible things in the universe.