Totems and Fetishes: How Guillermo del Toro’s Objects Tell Stories

Shape Of Water
By  · Published on December 11th, 2017

Monsters, magic, and motivations – oh my!

Director Guillermo del Toro is well-known for his monster designs and fairy tale-esque films, but his prop work is not to be underestimated. Introducing characters through the objects they own, the physical manifestations of their hopes and desires, is a narrative step often taken in children’s storytelling.

Fairytales feature Little Red Riding Hood with her basket full of goodies for her grandmother – a child defined for her carelessly bright apparel and her quest to deliver snacks. The characters of del Toro may be a bit more complex, but the logic is the same. Objects have the same power as people if they are used correctly.

Luís Azevedo’s video essay drills down into this usage, finding lucid thematic connections throughout films and characters that help us understand del Toro’s decisions. Direction is not the only thing analyzed here, but screenwriting. Characters need not be introduced saving a cat, but doing something reflective of their motivations – especially if those motivations can be contained within a powerful totemic prop.

Related Topics: , ,

Jacob Oller writes everywhere (Vanity Fair, The Guardian, Playboy, FSR, Paste, etc.) about everything that matters (film, TV, video games, memes, life).