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Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters

Until January 7, 2018, the AGO’s Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters celebrates the work and explores the creative process of filmmaker Guillermo del Toro. The exhibit, put on in cooperation with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Minneapolis Institute of Art, is not to be missed.

Spread throughout several distinct rooms and eight thematic sections and vaguely mimicking del Toro’s famed Los Angeles residence, the “Bleak House”, the exhibit has surprising depth. Each part of the exhibit provides insight into del Toro’s artistry and the characters he connects with, some of which he created for the screen himself. Some thematic elements work better than others – childhood and innocence, death and the afterlife, and outsiders, stand out as particularly compelling – but nonetheless, the exhibit avoids feeling overstretched.

The exhibit benefits immensely from the natural intrigue of del Toro as a creative mind he gamely offers up rare access into his early life. Autobiographical text-heavy displays sporadically placed throughout the exhibit detail how he confronted death early on, was exorcised by his grandmother twice, and was bullied as a child. Considering the characters del Toro has created, this background contributes greatly towards a more thorough understanding of the art and the individual behind it.

It is clear that del Toro has a real connection to featured objects and art, and much of the exhibit explores the roots of these connections. Fans of del Toro’s films will love the 22 full-size specimens of characters either in del Toro’s own films or films that have inspired him. Accompanying informational pieces go into the process behind the design of these characters, adding even more value to the experience. For instance, the exhibit offers up that the Angel of Death has displaced eyes which make it quite literally blind to human suffering, and that del Toro intentionally moves eyes on characters for an immediate sense of monstrosity. Fun tidbits like this supplement all of the full-size monsters; it’s akin to a narrated special features section of a DVD, but for his entire filmography, and with more insight and visual flair.

The exhibit also finds space for spooky history lessons that connect to the broader deep dive into del Toro’s inspiration. The filmmaker selected a number of piece himself, including photos from the 1870s of babies held by their mothers for portraits. Unlike today, such photos required 10 seconds of stillness in that time, and because mothers had to hold their babies, they were covered in black cloth. Mothers could not be simply cropped out, so you were (hilariously, in hindsight) supposed to ignore the cloaked figure looming over, and holding, the child.

A recurring theme connecting all of del Toro’s work is acceptance, and the monstrosity within humanity that can so often obstruct acceptance, tolerance, and connection. Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters successfully provides a glimpse into what these monsters mean to the filmmaker while offering the audience an opportunity to connect to them as well.

Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters is on now – January 7, 2018. Book tickets @ https://ago.ca/exhibitions/guillermo-del-toro

Dani Saad

Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose. Unless you're Harry Potter in which case you'll lose... everything.