Director Guillermo del Toro displays special exhibit at LACMA

Upon entering Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, visitors are led through an incredible experience detailing director Guillermo Del Toro’s creative process, inspiration and a look inside his personal notebooks and life. The exhibit takes visitors on a journey of Del Toro’s life through eight different thematic sections.

Del Toro’s childhood is revisited in the opening section, “Childhood and Innocence.” In this section, children are the focal point, as in many of his films, through their own perceptions of reality. The children in his works are described as having unfiltered emotions and expressions. It’s vital to understand del Toro’s unsentimental nature toward people — and children are no exception. More so, this lack of sentiment is demonstrated in his non-shielding of young characters from harm, abandonment, fear or death. The collection confirms this narrative by displaying pictures of dead children as well as a quote from Del Toro. “In fairy tales ogres and wolves ate children, and I think that it goes to the roots of storytelling, to have children as vulnerable.” 

The collection under “Victoriana” illuminates the creativity del Toro uses in a majority of his work, namely, that of the earlier Romantic era and later Edwardian age. This inspiration even stems back to Victorian writer Charles Dickens’ influence on the name of del Toro’s residence, Bleak House. During the Victorian period, science was embraced and used meticulously to categorize all aspects of life. The collection reflects this modern embrace in the form of del Toro’s extensive collection of insect paraphernalia, including images of specimens and diverse trinkets.

“Magic, Alchemy, and The Occult” is the third section of Guillermo del Toro’s grand exhibit. This section is embellished with compositions and statues paying homage to the beauty of horror. Notable works included paintings by Pieter van der Heyden, Zdzisław Beksinski as well as some statues of H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft’s invoking monstrous madness is cited as a staple to del Toro’s influences.

A section that can be surprising to the casual observer is “Movies, Comics, Pop Culture.” This particular section shows viewers del Toro’s love for comic books. Famous Monsters of Filmland was among Del Toro’s favorite films, so much so he claims to have learned English in order to decipher and make sense of the puns in the series. Concept art of films such as Sleeping Beauty created by Earle Eyvind contributed to the eccentric collection.

“Frankenstein and Horror” pays homage to one of del Toro’s first stories heard as a child. Del Toro later read Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus which solidified the effect Frankenstein’s monster had on him. The frailty and vulnerability of the monster is something implemented in many of del Toro’s creations. Frankenstein allowed Del Toro to effectively connect to the horror genre and champion it.

“I adore it. I embrace it. I enshrine it. I don’t look down upon it or frown up it in a way that a lot of directors do … For me, it’s not a steppingstone, it’s a cathedral,” del Toro said.

The special exhibit ended with “Death and the Afterlife.”  Context is given regarding Del Toro’s upbringing in Guadalajara, Mexico, in a strict Catholic household. His grandmother instilled the notion of original sin and submitted him to exorcisms to eradicate his love of monsters and fantasy, which only led him further from the religion.

In many of his films, del Toro spins traditional views of loss, innocence, or ego and transforms them into hope and redemption. Many of his characters find purpose in community, especially the environments around them.

After experiencing del Toro’s exhibit, visitors walk away with a greater understanding of the eclectic director’s inspirations through the various sections. The imagery seen in both del Toro’s concept art as well as collections that have inspired him will also create a large sense of captivation and curiosity.

Guillermo Del Toro: At Home with Monsters will appear at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art until Nov. 27th.