Thursday, May 15, 2008

GDT On Religion, Part 1

Having described himself as a "lapsed Catholic," a common theme in GDT's movies is religion. Here are some interesting quotes from Guillermo on this topic:

From an interview by Mira Sorvino, August 1997:

"I think the concept of good and evil has to be both moral and religious. Growing up as a child in Mexico, you're exposed to all these images of saints who have no eyes and are bleeding from their sockets, and you're supposed to pray to a Christ who is purple with wounds and oozing substances, and people are kissing his feet, which have chunks of bone showing through the flesh. Religion is supposed to make you feel safe, but here you are, praying to a purple guy who doesn't speak. I can't avoid images like these in my films, although I think they're much less predominant in Mimic than in Cronos...."

"I spent a lot of time with my grandmother because my parents traveled a lot. Actually, my real grandmother, my mother's mother, died during childbirth. The woman I call my grandmother was my grandmother's sister. She was an extremely repressed and religious woman. You know how it is with old school Catholics: You're born and you're already in sin, and you go, Why? I haven't even enjoyed myself yet. What the hell is this about? In Catholicism it's like God is merciless, the Devil is evil, and they aren't that far apart, in the sense that they're both stem figures watching over your shoulder to see which way you teeter. If you go a little too much to the God side, then the Devil is very interested in you. If you go a little too much to the Devil side, then God damns you. And then you have a sense of guilt, which is a key element in any horror movie. The old guy scratching himself in Cronos is a metaphor for many things, from sexual addiction to chemical addiction - compulsive urges that in Catholicism become sin."

"In Latin American countries it's understood that Christ was flesh and blood, Christ was human - let's see him bleed. A saint that has bled is a human saint. A saint that exists only on an altar in white surrounded by halos, what is that? Those people who committed suicide in the Heaven's Gate cult had no idea whatsoever about the real. world anymore. What they looked up to were these emasculated white aliens devoid of any dark side. I think First World cultures tend to homogenize religion and make it more remote. For example, kids in America don't know they're going to die, whereas in South America if you tell a fable about a kid going into a dangerous place, the kid invariably dies - it's about teaching children that if you cross certain lines of safety, you die. It's not like you can cross the safety line and then jump in with John Williams music and everything will be all right."


Volker Schultze said...

Thank you for the interesting comment of Mr. del Toro on his view of religion. I understand that his experiences with religion in his youth must have been less than harmonic.

The view he expresses, however, is an old stereo-type of "old-school Catholics" as being repressed, neurotic, harsh in their treatment of others, and merciless - like their God.

Please let me tell you that the God you are talking about is a God of mercy, not of hate! Yes, He has created all mankind and all of the world, and He has created it out of love. The only motive for creation is love! Then came the Fall, and it happened not because of God's fault but of Adam's and Eve's. They were responsible for themselves, they knew the Commandment that God had given them, and they were free to choose whether they would obey it or not. They both chose not to. The devil was only the tempter. The final decision to do wrong, however, was made by Man and Woman themselves. That also explains why there is still evil in this world today. Since we have biologically as well as spiritually sprung from these two first people, we inherited their nature which was badly hurt after the Sin. And this nature which is out of balance now is the cause for so many sins and so much evil in this world that we face today, that we even commit today.

As to the role of Christ: He is God himself. Of course, He knew what happened, nobody understood the Fall of Man better than He did and still does. He saw the crime, He saw the suffering that ensued, a suffering that was just and equal to the sin commited, and He was moved with mercy. Then the Father sent the Son (who are both one God!) to earth in order to do the act of redemption - the crucification - an act that was bloody but only for Him who gave Himself for all the others, but it was also an act of mercy. God did not command any man to do any sacrifice, but He Himself united his Godhead with a entirelly human nature and did the one and last sacrifice - and Man was redeemed. But since he is even afterwards not bereft of the divine gift of his free will, it is still up to him to accept this sacrifice and everything that Christ has taught, or to reject it. Only if he has the heart to accept IT ALL, will the fruit of the crucification be given to him. But it is in general free to everyone. God died for everyone, but it is up to us to say "yes" to Him or "no". It depends on the divine gift of free will.

This is the Catholic faith, and I am certain that even Mr. Tolkien, himself an "old-school" Catholic, that is, in more proper words, a traditional Catholic, would have agreed to what I have just said.

Anonymous said...

Reading del Torro's notions about Catholicism confirms all my suspicions about him after watching his bleak "Pan's Labyrinth." It's regrettable that he got his very primitive version of Catholicism from his (no doubt) uneducated grandmother & the Mexican peasant culture. His is an extremely distorted & grotesque conception of Christianity & Catholicism. I feel sorry for him.

Perhaps, now that del Torro is all grown up, he might make the effort to *really* learn about Catholicism. If he remains ignorant, I dread to think what he'll do with The Hobbit. I hope the spirit of the devout and learned Catholic, J.R.R. Tolkien, will guide del Torro.

Anonymous said...

I think del Toro's comments are mature and well-thought-out. It's obvious that he has deeply considered topics that practicing Catholics, by embracing the self-induced blindness called faith, have not. Stepping outside the christian bubble of delusion, he is able to make intelligent social and dogmatic commentaries, which will naturally offend those who are still inside the christian bubble of delusion. Anyone who says that the god of the bible is a god of love hasn't read the bible!

I am also a former Catholic, now a happy atheist (just like Gandalf!). Regardless of what Mr. del Toro's current beliefs are, I applaud his free-thinking spirit and courage to say what he thinks!

Lost Jimmy said...

Both 'GDT on religion' posts are excellent Parker.

Volker Schultze said...

I should like to say thanks to "Anonymous II." for his negative share on Catholicism. First of all: The Catholic belief is not blindness. In fact, it throws a light on all things and makes you understand man an nature, yes, the whole cosm as well as things that happen on earth, AND YOURSELF, a great deal better. Sin is what disturbs faith. This can get as far as destroying your personal faith. But that is what man is: a creature that is lapsed. But he is not in himself bad. He has been created good. "And God saw all things, and He saw that they all were very good" (Genesis). This includes man. But as I said, man abused his spiritual faculty of free will. Yes we are so free we can even decide upon our own damnation! And many of us do. I cannot see any blindness in faith. The contrary is the case.

Then to Gandalf: Gandalf is a wizard sent to Middle Earth by the Valar: among the first creatures of God in Tolkiens world. The Valar pray to God. They are Angel-like beings, responsible for cosmic elements. This is also the case with the angels according to the Christian faith. Gandalf is absolutely no atheist! He is something like a high priest! Tolkien, however, has only omitted to speak about religion and faith directly in the "Lord of the Rings". But all about his cosmology can be extensively read in his "Simarillon". I advise you, Anonymous, to study this book!

Vincent DiCarlo said...

I have only seen one of Mr Del Toro's movies--Pan's Labyrinth. While the movie has some artistic merits, on a philosophical and thematic level it is just another of the violent and fantastic exploitations of antireligious bigotry that seems to have become standard fare at the movies lately. Like others of its ilk, Pan's Labyrinth has three obvious characteristics:

1. It is very violent. The protagonist's stepfather does things like beating one person's face in with a bottle, and torturing another until he begs for death.

2. The characters professing Christianity are all monsters and hypocrites.

3. The good guys are all creatures out of pagan mythology and their friends.

Many of the people who liked this movie will say that, far from being antirelious, it has many Christian elements in it. For example, the heroine sacrifices herself rather than permit the sacrifice of an innocent baby, and is rewarded with life after death. This is a good thing, no?

Well, what the protagonist does is good, but the context makes the message all wrong. Essentially, what we have here is yet another attempt to say that the good stuff about Christianity can be had without Christ. This is the great theme that runs through most bogus modern spiritual substitutes for Christianity, including atheism. It should be easier for people to spot by now. After all, John Henry Newman pointed out over a century ago that the problem with atheistic humanism is that it thinks it can have the fruits of Christianity without the roots.

In Newman's time, it was humanists claiming they could have Christian morality without Christ. Now, it's pagans claiming, in fiction anyway, that they can have the whole enchilada -- redemption and eternal life -- without the redeemer and giver of life. The sad thing is, after decades of cultural decay, this ridiculous claim seems plausible to many, at least on an emotional level. And it is on an emotional and imaginative level that this movie will do its harm, by associating Christianity with sadism and death, and paganism with "truly Christian" nobility and eternal life.

Once you learn to recognize this sort of fictional portrayal of Christianity as unchristian, and of paganism and atheism as truly "christian," you will see it frequently. These portrayals are popular because they offer lapsed Christians a phony religious experience without requiring any moral effort and they allow people who have learned to rationalize their immoral lives to feel superior to those who at least attempt to conform to an objective moral standard.

Mr Del Toro has considerable technical skill and imagination. It is regrettable that he misuses those talents to pander to the disordered desires of his audience and to confirm us in our most pernicious errors. I pray that one day he will achieve the wisdom and the courage to do otherwise.