A few weekends ago, I went to see Guillermo De Toro’s newest film “Crimson Peak” after some lengthy deliberation. I am one of the world’s biggest scaredy cats, so seeing a scary movie even in the safety and comfort of my home where I can mute the sound and turn on all the lights is not a decision I usually make because I prefer to not be paralyzed by fear.
However, I had heard a lot of buzz about “Crimson Peak”. For a much better, cohesive, intelligent review of the film, click here
. It is in fact this review that convinced me to I needed to see “Crimson Peak”, along with an interview with Tom Hiddleston, who plays the dark and mysterious Baronet Thomas Sharpe, in which he explained what the literary genre of gothic romance really is and I swooned a little.
Let me begin by saying that this movie was everything that I hoped it would be. Despite what some critics are saying about it not being scary enough, I found it to be just the right amount of scary with a total number of face-hides at 5. The film was just so visually stunning that even when I was frightened I didn’t want to look away. I didn’t want to miss a thing. *cues Aerosmith song and then promptly turns it off because it’s awful*
Much like in his previous films, Del Toro’s love of symbolism is evident and reflected in Kate Hawley’s costume choices. Our pale, innocent and perfectly American heroine Edith Cushing, played by Mia Wasikowska, is presented to the audience in white (for
innocence and purity), gold (for wealth) and yellows (for fertility and abundance). Kate Hawley also described Edith as “a canary in a coal mine”, which is most obvious in what I call her Cornucopia Dress.
The golden color of the dress reminds me of the color of wheat or corn just before the harvest and the plants that embroider her sleeves suggest a bounty of life. All of her dresses and nightgowns are adorned with flowers, connoting newly bloomed fertility.
But Edith is also a character touched by death. After losing her mother to cholera as a young girl, for Edith the veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead is a thin one, and so Kate Hawley accessorized her with tokens of mourning, including a Victorian mourning belt made of her dead mother’s hair with a buckle carved into the shape of her clasped mother’s hands.
It is only in contrast to Thomas’ sister Lucille (played by the enormously talented and wonderful Jessica Chastain) that everything Edith symbolizes becomes clear. Where Edith’s costumes proclaim bounty and life, Lucille’s dark-colored and rigidly structured dresses mimic Lucille’s sentiment about their isolated English estate Allerdale Hall: “nothing grows here anymore”.
The very first view we have of Lady Lucille is of a woman in a red dress sitting at a piano, entrancing the audience with her music. As the camera gets closer, the dress becomes even more striking as the details become clearer. It is not just a Victorian dress, although it does include corset and bustle. Along the entire spine of the dress are tightly laced ribbons giving the dress a vertebra of its own. In fact, although the corset and bustle give Lucille a womanly shape, the design of the dress is reminiscent of Victorian images of starvation. You can almost see Lucille’s skeleton coming out of her dress.
Lady Lucille Sharpe and the enormous gothic mansion that the Sharpes take Edith back to are the most interesting characters of the film. While Hiddleton’s Thomas is undoubtedly enigmatic, it becomes clear as the movie goes on that he is an element caught between two opposing forces, as symbolized by the two women in his life.
In summary, adding up a fantastic cast with visually stunning costumes and meticulous design earns Guillermo Del Toro’s “Crimson Peak” the Taste Maven Stamp of Approval! Congratulations, team, and try not to spend the non-existent prize money all in one place.
And now, enjoy some more costume porn!