Director Spotlight: Guillermo del Toro

Ava Devine, Art's Editor

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There’s a lot of excitement surrounding Mexican-born director Guillermo del Toro as the Oscars approach. His most recent work, The Shape of Water, has been nominated for two academy awards, and Del Toro himself has been nominated for Best Director for his work on the film. The Shape of Water has been Del Toro’s most successful film since his work on Pan’s Labyrinth in 2006, and he has become known as a kind of master of fantasy within the world of cinema.

While Del Toro has worked in film following his directing of Pan’s Labyrinth, it’s clear that his two most well-known works best represent his interests as a director. Both The Shape of Water and Pan’s Labyrinth are centered around strong female leads who are limited by their physicality, one being mute and the other a child. Similarly, both films circulate around the prominent theme of good versus evil as the female leads are faced with sinister male foes. Del Toro is fond of utilizing historic time periods as seen by his choice of setting within The Shape of Water, Crimson Peak, and Pan’s Labyrinth. His use of these distant times only enhance the fantasy elements that Del Toro enjoys using within his movies. By making the audience feel far away from the world they live in, he creates what feels like an entirely different world on screen; he makes this feeling even stronger by tying in fairy tale stories that bring audiences back to their childhood. Del Toro’s frequent use of extended motifs, unusual creatures, and macabre themes set him apart from other directors who tend to gravitate toward more main stream topics, settings, and story lines.

Guillermo del Toro is a director who is easy to set apart from other directors of this century. He is working diligently to bring fantasy back to adults by playing into their greatest hopes, sweetest dreams, and darkest nightmares. Through work in films such as The Shape of Water and Pan’s Labyrinth, he has created magical worlds and charming characters that steal the audience’s heart and make them entirely invested in a plot that they hope will end happily. Del Toro demonstrates the unfair imbalance within the world as he conveys discrimination based on age, race, and physical disability throughout his films. He crafts characters that are unusual, but heart-wrenchingly pure, making it impossible for the audience not to root for them until the very end. Del Toro is a mastermind of cinema, so keep a eye out for him at the Oscars and keep in mind one of his favorite themes: everyone, no matter their age, needs a little bit of magic in their life.

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