Amongst all the talk about Guillermo Del Toro’s newest film The Shape of Water, his home and mind have also been on display here in Toronto. Since September 30, 2017, until just this past Sunday, Del Toro’s collection of paintings, dresses, books, life-like characters from his films, props from his film, photographs, comics, drawings, and many more have been on display at the Art Gallery of Ontario. The exhibit Guillermo Del Toro: At Home with Monsters, is a fascinating one that draws you not only into the house the Del Toro lives in, but into his mind as well.
Upon entering the exhibit, the smell of an older, rustic, and historical home is immediately noticed while standing on a red rug with patterns of all kinds that you’d only expect in a haunted house, or in this case, Del Toro’s home. Del Toro welcomes you into his mind and his home on a screen with a basic introduction of what one might expect as they venture through his collection.
The first sculpture you’re hit with is a life-sized version of the Pale Man from the movie Pan’s Labyrinth. The beauty of this sculpture is astounding. There is so much detail and creativity in the design of the Pale Man that goes unnoticed when viewing the actual film. Nonetheless, a fantastic way to open the exhibit and keep you on your toes as you continue through the rest.
From Crimson Peak, to Pan’s Labyrinth, all the way to Hellboy, many props and costumes from his films were on display. It’s one thing to watch these iconic articles of clothing and tools used in his films, but it’s a whole other experience to see them in real life. Two particular items that struck me the most at the exhibit was the dress for Edith’s dead mother in Crimson Peak and the life-sized Faun from Pan’s Labyrinth. Though definitely horrifying to look at up close in the exhibit, the dress itself is a thing of beauty; the attention to detail, the intricate embedding of the butterflies, the embroidery of insects was astonishing to see up close. The Faun from Pan’s Labryinth was such a beautiful sight to see. To fully stand next to this creature that came out of Del Toro’s mind was truly an experience like no other. Weirdly enough, I had a small amount of hope that it would come to life so that I could speak to it.
Though the experience of being up close and personal with many of the props from his films was absolutely wonderful, what was even more of a delight was looking through Del Toro’s collection of paintings and books. One painting that stuck with me the most was that of a lonely young girl surrounded by a depth of darkness. Staring into the background for a little while, you begin to notice some shadows that almost hover over this young child. Del Toro doesn’t shy away from exposing the innocent child to the macabre of death, blood, and fear in his films—this painting is embodies that theme. Amongst the dark paintings, there were many photographs of funeral announcements, of him and his childhood, and so on. There was this small collection of photographs from the early 1900s of mothers under black sheets to hide themselves as their children, mostly infants, were getting their photograph taken. The intention of this at the time was to solely have a photograph of the child without the mother present in the photo. However, she was covered with a dark sheet in order to keep the baby from moving during the photoshoot. Looking at them in the exhibit though, you can’t help but feel horrified at the fact that it resembles a dark ghoul holding hostage an innocent child. Despite how mortifying they are to look at, the photographs are remarkably beautiful.
A selection of his collection was on display in the exhibit in a make-shift “Rain Room.” The rain room in his home has two screens that constantly play the sound of rain throughout the day. The screens also have a window-like look to it, to add to the feeling that this room is always being rained on. This is Del Toro’s favourite room. He uses it to write his films and to read his favourite books by his favourite authors.
A few of his favourite authors include H.P. Lovecraft, Charles Dickens, and Edgar Allan Poe. However, Del Toro’s love for these authors’ books does not end with just their novels. He also collects busts of these authors and has life-sized wax figures of them in his house. Both eerie and beautiful to look at it, you can’t help but wonder how Del Toro goes to get a glass of water at night with these still life-like figures scattered throughout his home.
The final stage of the exhibit is Del Toro’s collection of anything and everything to do with Frankenstein. The very first thing Del Toro has hanging in the foyer of his home is a five-foot-tall head of Dr. Frankenstein’s man-made creature that has become an icon to many. A Del Toro exhibit would feel empty without the dedication to the famous Frankenstein—it plays well into the idea of Del Toro’s monsters that inspire his personal work.
The exhibit could be talked about for ages. From gigantic pieces, to art smaller than the tip of my finger, every little bit of the exhibit resides in Del Toro’s house and fuels the inspiration of all his creative work. The slogan of the exhibit was that “Inspiration is a Monster.” For Del Toro, I take it to mean that his collection inspires him, drives his creativity, but can also destroy it too, just as the monsters he has both created and studied have done through literature, film, and other art.
Del Toro leaves you in the end with the following quote: “The reason I create monsters and love them is that I think they speak to a very deep, spiritual part of ourselves. It is my most cherished desire that as you leave the exhibition, the monsters follow you home, and that they live with you for the rest of your life.” Del Toro’s collection of monsters left me in awe of his home and his creative mind in the monster world. His beautiful and intricately delicate monsters followed me home, and I have no doubt in my mind that they will stick with me forever.
Guillermo Del Toro: At Home with Monsters ran until January 7.