Director: Guillermo Del Torro
Release Date: 1993
We start with scenes of an alchemist (Mario Iván Martínez) and a voice over. We are told that the alchemist moved to Mexico to escape the inquisition, and there worked to perfect the Cronos Device – a mechanical piece that could offer eternal life. 400 years later the alchemist is accidentally killed by impalement, his skin like marble. No trace of the device was found.
Jesús Gris (Frederico Lupi) is an antiques dealer who lives with his wife Mercedes (Margarita Isabel) and granddaughter Aurora (Tamara Shanath). He discovers the device in the base of a hollowed statue and accidentally triggers it, causing the device to pierce his hand. Later he sells the statue to Angel Del La Guardia (Ron Perlman) who buys it on behalf of his dying uncle Dieter (Claudio Brook). Dieter has the alchemist's notebook and is searching for the Cronos Device as a way to cheat death.
A little nod here to Perlman, a stalwart of Del Torro’s movies, whose nose-job obsessed Angel is an excellent character.
Angel eventually kills Gris, by pushing a car – with Gris in it – over a cliff, having failed to secure the device. Of course he has not been told what is going on by Dieter, who is concerned as to whether Gris was pierced through the heart. Gris reanimates and Aurora helps him as he searches for the notebook, in an attempt to explain what he has become.
Many of the usual rules of the vampire are followed here. Gris regenerates, in fact even before his death wounds heal quickly. Sunlight burns him and a stake through the heart will kill him. The twist, of course, is that it is an alchemical device that causes the vampirism. The device is shaped much like an insect and contains an insect that filters the blood. It is a novel concept.
There are many marvellous moments within the film. Gris explaining to Aurora when, scared of what is happening to her grandfather, she steals the device, that her father had done much the same at her age with Gris’ cigarettes. It is clear that there are overtones of addiction throughout the vampire genre, but rarely has a simile with tobacco addiction been used.
Another moment is when Gris follows a man with a nose bleed into a toilet. When the man leaves he is about to lick up the blood – it would have been the first time he drank blood – when another man enters, who then cleans up the blood. Gris ends up led on the floor, licking up the blood that is spilled there. The filming of this scene seems slightly slowed and makes the feeding appear almost luxurious.
Following his return from death, Gris is seen cutting the stitching from his mouth with a shard of broken glass, and it is attention to such small details that helps make this film as good as it is.
The entire cast are excellent. Shanath as Aurora only speaks one word, at the end of the film, and yet plays a thoroughly intrinsic role in the movie. Her none verbal communication shows an acting ability far beyond her young years.
The direction is superb, as one would expect with Del Torro – though perhaps I am biased as I believe him to be an excellent director. I can quite happily give this film 9 out of 10.
The imdb page is here.
Saturday, April 15, 2006
Director: Guillermo Del Torro