Academic journal article Atlantis, revista de la Asociación Española de Estudios Anglo-Norteamericanos

Desafiando El Mito De la Familia Nuclear Victoriana: El Motivo del Incesto En Crimson Peak (2015) De Guillermo del Toro

Academic journal article Atlantis, revista de la Asociación Española de Estudios Anglo-Norteamericanos

Desafiando El Mito De la Familia Nuclear Victoriana: El Motivo del Incesto En Crimson Peak (2015) De Guillermo del Toro

Article excerpt

Challenging the Victorian Nuclear Family Myth: The Incest Trope in Guillermo del Toro's Crimson Peak

I. INTRODUCTION

Guillermo del Toro's neo-Victorian film, Crimson Peak (2015b), portrays an incestuous relationship in late Victorian England in order to challenge idealised views of the Victorian nuclear family. Set in rural England in 1901, this Gothic romance revolves around Edith Cushing, an aspiring American writer who falls in love with Sir Thomas Sharpe, a British aristocrat. After her father is brutally murdered, Edith marries Sir Thomas and moves with him to his family estate in England, Allerdale Hall, leaving her former suitor, Dr. Alan McMichael, behind. The film portrays the incestuous relationship between the Sharpe siblings, Thomas and Lucille, who suffered child abuse at the hands of their mother. The family mansion is now inhabited by the ghosts of the siblings' victims--namely, their mother and Sir Thomas's three deceased wives. Crimson Peak appropriates several nineteenth-century plotlines and character archetypes- -such as the detective figure and the ghost story--and is inspired by Victorian classics, mainly Edgar Allan Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher" (2013, 1-28), Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre ([1847] 1987) and Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights ([1847] 2003). (1)

In Crimson Peak, the bond between Lucille and Thomas Sharpe replicates the siblings' incestuous relationship hinted at in Poe's tale. The protagonists in both works of fiction are trapped in a crumbling ancestral mansion, desperately trying to bring it back to its former glory. At the end, the Sharpe siblings meet the same fate as their counterparts in Poe's story: they die in their family home. In addition, the dysfunctional family ties and child abuse portrayed in the film echo the Brontë sisters' most celebrated novels. Thus, Thomas and Lucille were often locked up in the attic and regularly beaten by their mother as punishment, just as Jane Eyre was at her aunt's house and later at Lowood school. Moreover, they witnessed the gender violence that their father--who was absent for long periods, presumably dilapidating the family money--inflicted on their mother. Furthermore, the location of the central part of the film in a rural area in the North of England, with its inclement weather and dreary, Gothic scenery, seems to be inspired by the descriptions of the setting of Wuthering Heights. In fact, the incest plotline in the film appears to be triggered by the domestic violence that the siblings endured, as well as by the oppressive atmosphere they were surrounded by as they grew up.

Del Toro has been critically acclaimed for other Gothic films, such as the internationally lauded Pan's Labyrinth (2006), which is considered a companion to The Devil's Backbone (2001). More recently, he received two Academy Awards for the Gothic romance The Shape of Water (2017), set in Baltimore in 1962, where a mute cleaner falls in love with a humanoid creature. What all these Gothic films have in common is that they look back into the past in order to expose traumatic experiences that were concealed from public view. In fact, Keith McDonald and Roger Clark claim that "del Toro's filmic alchemy portrays the blending together of real-world historic trauma with supernatural phenomena" (2014, 5). The historical setting of Crimson Peak allows Del Toro to deconstruct the Victorian nuclear family--usually depicted as dysfunctional in (neo-)Victorian fiction--and to exploit the incest motif in order to bring Victorian family traumas to the fore. Del Toro clearly has a vast knowledge of both high and popular culture, as proved by the fact that his "films are all inspired by Gothic literature [...] and some are very specifically engaged with the Victorian Gothic tradition" as well as with "fairy tales and magic realism" (McDonald and Clark 2014, 12).

Critics define Del Toro as a transnational director, whose production ranges from low-budget films--e. …

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