Monday, November 4, 2019

How to Explain Spirituality To A Faithless Generation According to Guillermo del Toro

When dogma and religion are rejected, it is often the case that fantasy and art replace them to fulfill the human need for something that is beyond the everyday and mundane. When Dostoevsky said in The Idiot that "beauty will save the world," one way this can be interpreted is by looking at fantasy and art that explore spiritual themes metaphorically.

For director Guillermo del Toro, who early on rejected the dogmas of Catholicism, questions of faith are continually explored through metaphor. He said in a 2008 USA Today interview:

"I'm eager to explore themes that lend themselves easily to metaphor. The fantastic is the only tool we have nowadays to explain spirituality to a generation that refuses to believe in dogma or religion. Superheroes create a kind of mythology. Creature movies, horror movies, create at least a belief in something beyond."

It is characteristic in his films that a Christian-inflected view of the cosmos is juxtaposed with events that seem to undermine its power and relevance. It's hard to know if del Toro is actually trying to come to terms with faith or even salvage it. Artists tend to use their art to explore issues of faith.

This reminds me of something Jack Zipes writes in "Why Fantasy Matters Too Much":

"If nothing can be more uncanny, anxiety-provoking, bizarre, and incongruous than our everyday reality, then our turn to fantastic literature and artworks probably does not stem from our need for greater excitement and shock in our lives. We do not need fantasy to compensate for dull lives, but, I want to suggest, we need it for spiritual regeneration and to contemplate alternatives to our harsh realities. More than titillation, we need the fantastic for resistance."

Based on del Toro's future projects, it seems this theme will continue to be explored. His ultimate dream is to make a new version of Frankenstein. He explains his purpose as follows:

"Frankenstein is ultimately a very existential creature, thrown into the world by an uncaring creator. It voices the essential plea of mankind asking God, 'Why am I here? What is my purpose?' Beyond any religion, it's a question mankind has voiced forever."

It should come as no surprise that he’s comparing his upcoming stop-motion animated adaptation of Pinocchio to the classic tale of Frankenstein:

"To me, Pinocchio, very much like Frankenstein, is a blank canvas in which learning the curve of what the world is and what being human is are very attractive to do as a story. I’m very attracted to it because, thematically — and I don’t want to spoil what the movie’s about — it’s about something that is in all of my movies, which is choice. That’s a theme that is very dear to my heart. I think [earlier versions of] the story, and Collodi’s in particular, are very repressive. It’s essentially a very brutalist fable about what a sin disobedience is. And I think disobedience is the beginning of the will, and the beginning of choice. … I think there’s something that’s very attractive about seeing disobedience as a virtue, or as the beginning of a virtue."

He also has written a screenplay based on a story by monster writer H.P. Lovecraft, At the Mountains of Madness, about explorers who find ancient ruins in Antarctica full of monstrous life.

Then there's an original story, Saturn and the End of Days, which del Toro describes as "a chronicle of the end of the world from the eyes of a 7-year-old. It has many things that are magical and terrible in it. It's the rapture."

This is all part of del Toro creating the cosmology of his own religion, as he explains in the video below: