Short Starts: Guillermo Del Toro’s ‘Geometria’ Has Fun With Irony and Math

By  · Published on July 7th, 2013

This is another edition of Short Starts, where we present a weekly short film(s) from the start of a filmmaker or actor’s career.

Pacific Rim director Guillermo del Toro is a movie geek’s best friend. Not just because he makes movies catered to them but because he is one of them, and they love and respect filmmakers who are both knowledgeable and passionate about cinema. If del Toro wasn’t providing the content for us to write about, he’d probably be writing about other people’s films (thank goodness he’s a movie maker, though, and not a movie blogger). I believe that he’s as celebrated an artist as he is, in spite of directing a lot of mediocre works, because people like him personally as much as if not sometimes more so than they like his output.

And he’s been putting out stuff for a long time, even more than most fans could possibly ever see. Del Toro is one of the generation of horror and fantasy filmmakers that was producing many short films prior to getting into features, mostly home movies and student films going back even earlier than any film school they might have gone to. He made about ten different shorts on a variety of formats (Super 8, 16mm and 35mm), but only two are available. There’s the ninth, 1985’s Doña Lupe, which can be seen on the compilation DVD “Cinema 16: World Short Films.” And then following that was Geometria in 1997. This is the easiest to get a hold of, as it’s included as an extra on the Criterion Collection edition of Cronos, and so it’s the only one I’ve had the pleasure to watch.

The English translation of the title is “Geometry,” and the Argento and Brava-inspired film is about a kid who is failing that subject in school. His solution is to call on a demon to grant him the wish of doing better at math and also another wish for his late father to return, and everything wraps up with an ironic punchline as the kid’s plan backfires horribly. The wicked plot comes from an American short story by sci-fi author Fredric Brown called “Naturally,” originally published in 1954. Shot in Mexico while del Toro was in his early 20s, Geometria co-stars the filmmaker’s own mother, Guadalupe del Toro (who also appears in the unavailable short Matilde) and cost either $1,000 or $2,500 depending on the quote you believe (the former number is more recent).

Wikipedia’s entry on Geometria has a great block quote from an interview with Fangoria where he admits to submitting the film to a “Starlog”-sponsored contest and not being picked as a finalist let alone a winner. Apparently it ended up on Italian television, as most of the bootlegs to be found online have a TELE+ logo at the bottom. That’s the old version, though. Del Toro recently recut the film to his liking for the Cronos disc, though the differences are very minor, naturally, with such a short story.

It’s obviously recommended that your first choice for watching Geometria is via the Criterion release, but you can check out the terrible quality translated uncut version (8:54) below followed by a non-subtitled, crisper picture version of the director’s cut (6:30).

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.