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Breaking down the hallmarks of Guillermo Del Toro’s style

Photo: Crimson Peak
Photo: Crimson Peak

In his latest style breakdown video, Australian cinephile The Film Guy takes a dive into the filmography of Guillermo Del Toro. He starts with the central question: If you had to make a film that perfectly mirrored Del Toro’s style, how would you do it? And from there he breaks down the storytelling tropes and visual touches that have become Del Toro’s signature.

Arguably the biggest hallmark of a Del Toro film is that it treats fantastical elements as mundane; ghosts, spirits, and monsters are a given part of the fabric of the world, not a shocking reveal for either the audience or the characters. He also tends to favor protagonists who are orphans, who lose a loved one during the course of the film, and who have to make a big choice in the climax. And Del Toro believes production design should be “eye protein” rather than “eye candy.” His films are incredibly visually rich, but he always aims to have those impressive visuals contribute to the storytelling rather than just look cool.

The Film Guy doesn’t just celebrate Del Toro’s work, however; he also points out some of its weaknesses as well. He argues Del Toro can sometimes prioritize visual storytelling to the detriment of his plot, often giving his actors too little to work with to create truly compelling characters. But rather than just dismiss that as a flaw, The Film Guy genuinely tries understand where Del Toro is coming from in his desire to create dark fairy tales that aren’t necessarily bound by logic. All in all, the 10-minute video serves a nice crash course to Del Toro’s work. You can watch the other videos in The Film Guy’s “How To Direct Like” series right here.

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