UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Monstrous progeny : revisiting Mary Shelley's creature in Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth Goodwin-McCabe, Brenna


Frankenstein’s Creature is the ultimate adaptation. Not only does he adapt mankind’s behavior and appearance, but it he is a literal collection of parts strung together and brought to life. It unsurprising that this position has encouraged filmmakers to further deconstruct and restore the Creature for decades. The process of adaptation mirrors Frankenstein’s method, as both Victor and the adaptation genre take apart old and decaying bodies and introduce them into new bodies of work. For figures like Guillermo del Toro, a renowned monster maker and film director, the Creature represents the definitive union of cinema and literature. Like Victor, del Toro is interested in collecting parts from previous media and creating new cinematic bodies. His projects thus focus on the overlap between real and unreal, literature and cinema, living and dead. A pivotal example of this is his 2006 Pan’s Labyrinth, which indirectly extends Shelley’s Creature both thematically and compositionally. Because del Toro treats his film as a body, one which can be divided and cut, he incorporates Victor’s principles into the filmmaking process. I am interested in the ways in which del Toro’s fascination with Mary Shelley’s 1818 text, and its later 1931 film adaptation by James Whale, influences his understanding of film. I suggest that del Toro’s Pan creates an ambiguous and liminal environment, where the boundaries between real and unreal overlap. Because the film juxtaposes its fantasy realm with fascism, it suggests that fascism corrupts the very foundations of imagination, making fairy tales political, and vice versa. I continue this discussion by suggesting that Pan’s liminal emphasis represents a broader engagement with overlapping parts, those which the Frankenstein narrative emphasizes. My first chapter focuses on the overlap between ideology and fantasy, the second on the adaptation genre, and the third details the female body, one who is frequently dissected and repurposed by these texts and the adaptation process. I do so to illustrate how the Creature’s body informs both del Toro’s subject and approach to filmmaking.

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