Long before Inception had audiences wondering what was real, Guillermo del Toro’s allegorical film wove the surreal of everyday life with a fantasy fairy-tale world. The story, set in Franco’s dictatorial regime in Spain, follows a young woman with a repressive stepfather loyal to Franco, a sick mother pregnant with his baby, and the rebels who are fighting him. With a career that began in special-effects makeup (and there are some pretty interesting-looking creatures here), it’s not surprising that the Mexican director emphasizes the importance of mise-en-scène in telling the story. What differentiates him from others who also pay attention to settings, costumes, hair and makeup, though, is the rich meaning and symbolism conveyed through them. Del Toro takes full advantage of these elements to communicate character and thematic meaning.
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