Visual Storytelling in Contemporary Cinema: A Neoformalist Cognitivist Analysis of Visual Storytelling in Gothic Romance Film Crimson Peak
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The purpose of this research is to investigate how Guillermo del Toro employs visuals in his 2015 Gothic Romance film Crimson Peak by answering the research question How does Guillermo del Toro’s visual storytelling in Crimson Peak’s plot shape its underlying story?. Therefore, this research first elucidates the existing academic debate surrounding film’s ability to tell stories visually. The subsequent analysis is conducted according to the neoformalist approach as discussed by Kristin Thompson, which entails that it investigates the visual storytelling devices that stood out to me when first watching the film. This method is combined with cognitive film theory as discussed by Warren Buckland and Thomas Elsaesser, which means that my research departs from the audience’s experience of the film in order to relate theory to analysis, and thus focuses on pinpointing the ways in which Crimson Peak’s compositional and stylistic choices influence the audience’s process of comprehending a film narrative and story. This research has found that Crimson Peak uses its mise-en-scène to guide the audience in discovering the truth by handing it visual puzzle pieces in the form of both Edith’s findings and more ‘hidden’ puzzle pieces embedded in the film’s mise-en-scène, to ultimately comprehend the narrative and understand the film. Furthermore, Crimson Peak uses ghosts, one of its major mise-en-scène components, to help the audience further understand Crimson Peak’s three main characters by embedding both physical and metaphorical ghosts in its narrative. My research confirms my initial observation that visual storytelling is an important part of Crimson Peak’s unfolding story. It detects the ways in which visuals guide the audience’s comprehension of the film. However, though I have analyzed the visual elements important to my research, the extent to which Crimson Peak uses visuals is so great that it is beyond the scope of this study to analyze every element of its mise-en-scène and its contribution to the narrative and the audience’s understanding of the film, which offers many more opportunities to research and discuss its visual storytelling on its own and in comparison to other (Del Toro) films.