I have a book on the color green, written by a French historian named Michel Pastoureau. I haven’t finished it yet, but I have this feeling that perhaps I’d need to in order to properly talk about Guillermo del Toro movies. Everything. Is. Green. Perhaps even more so here than in The Shape of Water, impossible as I would have thought that to be before rewatching Pan’s Labyrinth for the first time in eight years. The greens in The Shape of Water are aquatic, deep and tealed and emotive, or else they are artificially bright and represent The Future. The greens of Pan’s Labyrinth are vegetal, ancient and verdant and fey — Nature green in tooth and claw. I love it always. Guillermo del Toro clearly must as well.
I probably misspoke earlier though: I said that I had rewatched Pan’s Labyrinth. In fact, there are several minutes of this that I still have not watched. The monsters I am good with, more than good. The tall, creaking-nimble Faun who smells like earth, the horrible Pale Man with his blackened, sharpened fingers — love them, entrancing, can’t look away, all praise Doug Jones. It’s the torture scenes that I can’t handle, not at all. My eyes immediately squeeze shut, and for once I’m even grateful that I can’t understand Spanish. Guillermo del Toro makes very gorgeous movies. He also makes very gruesome movies. I wonder about that. I don’t think my Green book will explain.
Guillermo del Toro also makes magic movies though, this is sure. And the magic Pan’s Labyrinth deals in is so old: toadstones, golden keys, blood & milk, drawing a door, not eating any of the underworld feast, lullabies, sacrifice. Like The Shape of Water, it’s a fairy tale, and also like The Shape of Water, there’s this idea that in fairy tales, in fantasy, we can make choices. Ones that will have dire consequences, but they are ours. When your world seems so intent on making your path for you, maybe the gift of the Greenwood is in getting to choose which way you’ll go, even if that way, too, is dark.