“The Shape of Water” dives deep into a fantasy thriller world, telling the fairytale of a woman who is mute and her search for companionship in a harsh society.
A man spoke as the opening scene began with a long hallway, worn and dilapidated, filled completely with water. The hall forked at the end to two doors. The frame chose to stay to the left and the first character is shown floating above a sofa. The speaker continued, in a fairytale-like manner, pondering how he would go on to explain the story of an ordinary turned extraordinary girl, as the furniture made its way back to its original non-floating place in the room.
Guillermo Del Toro — the director, producer and co-writer — takes the viewer back to Baltimore in 1962, while also making them fall in love with an unlikely handsome creature.
In a secret, high-security laboratory, Eliza Esposito, portrayed by Sally Hawkins, finds friendship with a god-like sea creature brought in from South America. The facility’s new director, Richard Strickland, portrayed by Michael Shannon, is holding the mutant in the lab for studies, believing it may be able to be used as a weapon against enemies of the United States.
Del Toro aimed to produce a sea creature different from others in the past while still creating a recognizable, attractive figure. The sea creature was painted with UV paint, which gave the Amphibian Man, brought to life by Doug Jones, an underwater fish glow.
Amphibian Man is first introduced with a jumping slam of a hand against the inside of a glass case. This gives off a violent and uncontrolled animal feeling, but with Eliza’s warm, yet daring personality, the Man comes to be understood as a creature that only wants freedom and love.
The fate of the Amphibian Man is soon revealed and Eliza enlists her friends to help her with an impossible task. Giles, portrayed by Richard Jenkins, is a struggling advertising artist losing momentum in the industry and only has Eliza, who acts more as a friend than a neighbor. Zelda, portrayed by Octavia Spencer, a black woman with a lazy, strict husband, works at the laboratory cleaning with Eliza. Together, they risk their jobs, jail time and their lives to do what Eliza believes is right.
The filmmakers used colors, shadows and an eerie glow to fully capture the mood of the movie. Some scenes amplified the mood, utilizing the darkness from a stormy night.
The bond shared by the Amphibian Man and Eliza is the driving force of the movie. As a woman who is mute, her connection with the non-verbal creature surpasses friendship and makes its way to understanding and need for a being similar to herself. They long for each other from behind a glass cage and share hard-boiled eggs by the pool the Man is kept in.
The relationship between these two characters along with such a magical and romantic, yet chilling, tone is unlike one depicted before on screen.
Overall, the movie noted many diverse current and cultural topics, playing each one through characters troubled with their own dilemmas.
“The Shape of Water” received 60 nominations in the 2018 season and won 21 awards. The film grapples with acceptance, love, sexual harassment in the workplace, sexism and chauvinism in the ’60s and choosing morals over orders. The five-star movie is definitely worth the watch.
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