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Film Review: Guillermo Del Toro's 'Crimson Peak'

 

 

Guillermo Del Toro is famed for his obscure, haunting and dramatic films presenting stories that tug at our heartstrings whilst also disturbing us to our cores. Notoriously, he expertly plays with the cusps of love, romance and raw emotional power, as well as macabre themes that humans are designed to be revolted by, forcing the viewer to connect deeply with themes that terrify them. He humanises horror. It is no surprise, then, that his latest epic endeavours to do just this. Del Toro has claimed that he felt the need for a new direction in his work focussing more on the emotional and romantic aspects and steer away from the horror. Inspired by classic 19th-century authors such as Jane Austin and Emily Bronte, his tale finds itself within the realms of gothic fantasy that bleed into a romantic tragedy.

An important factor of Crimson Peak is that there's an element of ambiguity about the story that keeps itself alive and unravelling in your mind long after the credits roll. While it may appear to have a harshly disappointing storyline, especially when compared to its predecessors, there is a type of magic about this feature that forces the viewer to really think about what they have experienced in viewing the film. Above all else, the feature is visually stunning, even if this seems wasted on the somewhat cliché attributes of the story.

Looking at the artistry that went into filming, I could immediately see the influence Del Toro cited from Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lindon, as well as his proclaimed attempts to “paint a picture” with his use of colour. Using a one-source lighting technique, the shadows, drama and highlights of the scenes not only bask in a natural glow, they flicker so vibrantly with the heartbeat of the characters; there is a direct parallel between the spectrum of emotions displayed and the type of lighting or colour seen. That being said, Del Toro was evidently careful to make sure the effects didn't overshadow the actors and their performance, nor did they present a dizzying array that would have occluded what he was trying to represent.

While the signifiers may have used some recycled elements of gothic novels that authors such as Austen ridiculed, the signified alluded to something far deeper; the use of colour served more of a purpose in that it told its own story. If one is to read between the lines of the dialogue in Crimson Peak, the seemingly unsatisfied questions can be answered with what is implied. Del Toro used the stark contrasts of red and blue to represent both memory and secrets; love and anger; and salvation and damnation. These intertwining opposites seem to be telling a story of their own beneath the classic narrative.

While, on the surface, much is left to be imagined with regard to plot-line and events,, as with every fairy-tale dreamt up by the post-modern Brother's Grimm it comes with an array of darker, metaphorical twists that leave themselves to be discovered by those that dare. As such, Crimson Peak may write itself off as a mediocre form of entertainment upon first glance, yet because of the stories that are told in the shadows between words, it allows the viewer to discover a new story whenever they watch it. Like a novel that ends without any sort of closure, the viewer is free to imagine whatever light or dark fantasy that comes to mind with what Del Toro gives them.

Written by Jennifer Richards


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