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Guillermo Del Toro: Cabinet of Curiosities (Book Review)

I remember finding this book at Barnes and Nobles. Actually, I must recant that statement. Unlike most trips to the bookstore, when I have an idea about what I’m searching for, this book found me. It was just… waiting for me on the shelf. Surely, it must sound as if I’m being melodramatic, but it’s pull on me was almost magnetic.

I was enraptured with the artwork and spent a good deal of time flipping through the pages. For some reason I can’t recall, I left the store without buying it. I would later receive it as a Christmas present and I must admit, this book is one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.

Guillermo Del Toro is my favorite director working in Hollywood right now. He has an undeniably unique visual style to all of his movies. His films are often a blend of the horror and fantasy genres, often playing out as beautifully dark fairy tales set in our own world. This book is a piece of Del Toro’s mind chopped and laid bare for all to see. Del Toro himself contributed much to the book and it shows on each page.

The term cabinet of curiosities refers to a personal collection consisting of objects spectacular, extravagant, peculiar, and outlandish in nature. These collections rose to popularity in the 17th century with the wealthy and often had whole rooms dedicated to their purpose.

This book is a cabinet of curiosities in its own right. Within its spellbinding folds lies a collection of excerpts from the artists who have worked most closely with the man, a biography, a peak at Del Toro’s own private collection, and an in-depth view of his creative processes broken down film by film.

Though the book as a whole is a masterwork, reading about Bleak House and Del Toro’s notebooks was my favorite part of the experience. Bleak House is a giant cabinet of curiosities, an entire house that Del Toro purchased to enshrine the things he’s most passionate about. Toys, paintings, books, wax sculptures of his heroes, a rain room, props from his films… All on proud display. Words do little justice.

Half of the book is devoted to Del Toro’s secret notebooks, each containing ideas for his movies and future projects. Each of his films gets their own chapter. Sometimes his ideas are incomprehensible even to the filmmaker himself. Sometimes his notes point to the most minute of details in his films and you realize that nothing, no matter how small, is accidental. Each notebook is its own work of art, with Del Toro often illustrating his ideas for creatures or props. You see the filmmaker working out not just the look of each creature, but how they function and how its inclusion could best serve his film.

If you love art, Del Toro films, monsters, insights into creative processes, the eccentric and plain weird, this book is for you. This tome is a rather large hardcover coffee table book, but can also be found in a digital format on the amazon kindle store. Should you decide to purchase the book, I would recommend purchasing the hardcover version.
Lastly, I would just like to talk about the book’s effect on me. This book awoke something in me, a need to create that I had muted because I also had a strong need to eat and make money. It introduced me to artists and books I had no knowledge of prior. It taught me to look at the world with a child-like wonder and to never stop being curious about the world around me.

Most importantly, this book taught me to believe. Del Toro is a visionary, but more importantly, he’s a man who grew up loving the same things I love and decided to pursue that love. After reading this book, I chose to do the same. A year later, I have a manuscript for my first novel. Never underestimate the power of belief.

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[…] This is a technique I learned from my favorite director working in Hollywood right now, Guillermo Del Toro. Through the years, he has amassed such a collection of artwork, toys, movie props, wax statues, book, and films he needs a second house to warehouse it all. This Bleak House is his creative center, a monument to all the things that have captured his inspiration. To learn more about Del Toro’s collection, click here. […]