Postmodern mysticism: a study of the feature films of Guillermo del Toro
Vanaria, Francis Joseph III
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This thesis explores the work of the director Guillermo del Toro. In a career that spans 20 years working in feature films, del Toro has directed the Spanish-language art Cronos (1993) in Mexico, and The Devil’s Backbone (2001) and Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) in Spain. Del Toro has also worked extensively in Hollywood, wherein he directed Mimic (1997), Blade II (2002), Hellboy (2004), Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008), and, most recently, Pacific Rim (2013). Amongst these, del Toro regularly blends generic elements, and in doing so questions the boundaries dividing genres of: horror, sci-fi, fantasy, anime, melodrama, and the superhero. Making use of auteur theory, this study discusses the entirety of del Toro’s feature films in order to position the director as an auteur. As such, the motifs del Toro repeats in and across these 8 films are of central concern, as well as any biographical information to contextualize del Toro’s personal and aesthetic concerns. In particular, this thesis looks at del Toro’s stylistic and diegetic invocations of certain features of fairytales—the relation between reality and fantasy (Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy II), the fairytale trope of the curse (as in Cronos, Mimic, and The Devil’s Backbone), and the hunter archetype (which is emphasized in Blade II, Hellboy, and Pacific Rim). In addition, this study finds that the sacred and the profane constitute a central dialogue woven throughout del Toro’s films. Ultimately, this thesis concludes that del Toro can be considered an auteur in that he appropriates genre, fairytale motifs, and the sacred and the profane in order to explore bodies—human and nonhuman (that is, bodies of monsters, machines, and the divine)— as works of art that challenge the possibility of defining the body in singular terms (that is, as human, male, adult, white, etc.).
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