Tonight, as I finished listening to the director’s commentary for Crimson Peak, Del Toro struck me with one of his statements: “imperfection is an altogether attainable human goal,” and “love is acceptance of imperfections.”
The reason that line stood out to me, amid all the others, is that this year for Lent, I chose to give up “self-criticism.”
Some might argue that without self-criticism, we cannot be humble. Instead, I pose that self-criticism is a form of self-worship, through self-loathing. In hating myself, I commit dual sins of turning myself into an idol (to which I devote much time, energy, and emotion) and by criticizing God’s artwork. My imperfections are the result of living in an imperfect world; God intends me to be a masterpiece. I am a bit tarnished, but still His work of art and He will one day complete me in the fullness of time. I need neither hate myself in my current fallen state nor strive for perfection. I must neither self-worship through loving self excessively nor offend God through self-loathing.
People choose all kinds of idols to worship… to love or hate, but an idol is that which preoccupies the mind such that it removes focus from God onto a person, object, thought, or belief. An idol can be of flesh and blood, of carved stone, of paper, but it is that to which much time and energy is devoted.
In Crimson Peak, Thomas is an idol to Lucille – who inevitably destroys him, because her obsession is selfish, sick, twisted, and controlling. In Gothic Romance, the house represents the moral decay of a character – this house and Lucille are entwined, so much a part of one another that they breathe together. As Lucille steps away from her constraint and control, the house “bleeds,” the moths stir, and violence escalates. Her poisonous love has trapped Thomas as an eternal child – a boy lost in the attic, still creating toys for his sister… beautiful, complex toys that show the state of his emotional arrested development; he engages in sexless marriages for money to please his sister, and while his pristine toy machine is exquisite, the real one is a hideous monstrosity… rather like how his childish submission to his sister has allowed her to become a hideous human being, a monster without conscience, because he has never tried to stop her. His lack of will enables her to become a twisted version of Self. His sin generates her sins, and her sins cause him to sin, showing an endless negative cycle of abuse.
One friend likened the house to Purgatory: a hellish, surreal world neither present in reality nor entirely outside it, whose occupants become more and more unsuitable to live in the outside world the longer they remain there. Crimson Peak is certainly a hopeless place in a state of increasing decay. It is cold, dark, and full of ghostly presences, the lingering remnants of its sins echoing in distant corners.
The novelization goes a step further in stating the house is a living, breathing, evil force that grows in power and delight each time a murder is committed inside its walls. Did the house generate the darkness that warped the Sharps, or has their continued bloodshed, and Lucille’s sick joy in murder, corrupted the house? Which came first, and was the catalyst for the other, or did they grow at the same time, feeding off one another’s powerful evil energy? Is it the moral decay of the souls in it, and the misery of its ghosts, that has eaten away at the innards of the house, or is it living in that dank, oppressive, hellish place that drove Lucille insane?
Crimson Peak’s occupants could not afford to keep it up, but even if they could, to do so would have preserved the dark memories of that house – of unhappy childhoods, of a father reckless with money and at times violent, of an abusive and controlling mother. After their removal, after being sent away after her death, they had a chance to start a new life elsewhere… but they were drawn back to the house, to the state of unhappiness, to reminders of their former actions, to repeat old sins endlessly in a circle of violence… and to be miserable in the midst of it, a propagating cycle of abuse and murder for Lucille, and self-loathing for Thomas. It is only in Edith’s acceptance of him, her love for him despite his imperfections, that he finds freedom in loving her in return — and can strive to become his True Self. But because he has no support, he cannot save himself.
I cannot save myself; it is Christ’s love for me, despite my imperfections, that saves me. I cannot go forth and become my True Self on my own; I need Him to draw me from the brokenness of my imperfections, from the shame of my former mistakes, from the guilt of my sins, and set me free.