Guillermo del Toro – A master class on Gothic Romance

GDT photo by TIFF, via Twitter
GDT photo by TIFF, via Twitter

tl;dr Guillermo del Toro is incredibly articulate, charming, loveable, geeky, and a pretty darn passionate feminist, too.

Last night Alyx and I attended the Jane Eyre session of Guillermo del Toro’s Gothic Romance master class at TIFF. Video of the lectures and Q&A sessions from all three nights (Great Expectations, Rebecca, and Jane Eyre) will be available on the TIFF website. The whole thing was utterly delightful and inspiring, and I’m never missing another of his master classes.

Here are my notes, categorized:

GDT on his influences

  • “I have two literary crushes. One is all three Bronte sisters, the other is Mary Shelley.”
  • “Kate Beaton is my hero” specifically referencing this cartoon, or maybe this one.
  • Loves all gothic romances. Especially mentions Uncle Silas: A Tale of Bartram-Haugh by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu.
  • Lord Byron: “When all else fails, shock them.”
  • Two forces exist in our lives: love and fear. Love and fear are the two forces in narrative. We live in a world where it’s easier to believe in fear than love.
  • Sex was the forbidden thing the Victorians dreamed of. Now LOVE is the thing we don’t have permission to believe in.
  • Emotion is the new “-punk.”

GDT defines the gothic

  • Gothic romance is defined by the romantic view of death.
  • Gothic romance is the ultimate feminine drama.
  • Love is allowed to be dreamed of only through a supernatural agent.
  • A female point of view examines other models of femininity.

GDT on gothic elements

  • Love can only exist if the object of love is born in thorns.
  • Love comes through the intervention of something more than human.
  • Contains a huge amount of social S&M.
  • Gothic is also concerned with economic factors. Someone has to inherit wealth.
  • The person going on the journey has to be terribly diminished, humbled, innocent.
  • The illuminated male is often a doctor (caregiver).
  • Children are ultra-creepy when they take on adult roles.

GDT on Jane Eyre

  • Loves the Orson Welles version of Jane Eyre because the visuals are so obviously stylized. Prefers this to a naturalistic style. Especially loves the movie-making choices in the first part of the movie, before Rochester comes into it.
  • He would love to see Jane Eyre adapted, produced, and directed by a woman, because it never has been and a woman would make different choices in telling the story.
  • The love Jane feels is still not enough to tie her down.

GDT on sexual politics and the other

  • Men and women are equally full of contradictions.
  • The entirety of gender perception is false.
  • You can understand any character if you recognize the emotion.

GDT on his work

  • If he doesn’t love a character, he can’t write them. Loves his villains.
  • Wants you to come out of a movie without having your prejudices confirmed.
  • Wants you to come out of his movies feeling that everything you know about the world is wrong.

Tweets with many more great quotes and observations are collected in the #MasterClassdelToro hashtag.

He will be doing a master class series on Luis Buñuel next August , so don’t miss it.