One of my most anticipated movies this year is ‘The Shape of Water’. Knowing that this film earned 13 Oscar nominations is enough reason to see this movie in theatre. ‘The Shape of Water’ could very well be Guillermo Del Toro’s most passionate work to date. The style and direction of this movie are flawless. Actress Sally Hawkins (‘Maudie’) and veteran actor Richard Jenkins (‘The Visitor’) give the performances of their career.
‘The Shape of Water’ starts off with a very eerie but beautiful opening theme. The astonishing visuals (Elisa’s chamber filled with water in a world where beauty seems to be fleeting) along with the soundtrack was already a very promising start and one of the best movie opening sequences I have seen in years. We learn more about Elisa Esposito’s (Sally Hawkins) life. She’s fond of eggs it seems and masturbates frequently in the water.
We soon learn that Elisa became a mute woman after being injured in her neck when she was an infant. She lives in a small apartment above an old movie theatre and has an intimate friendship with her gay neighbour, Giles (Richard Jenkins). Her other best friend is Zelda (Octavia Spencer), a black woman who works as a janitor in a laboratory in Baltimore just like Eliza herself. Zelda often interprets for Elisa at work, being the only friend there who genuinely cares about her. Elisa Esposito has a very monotone life, almost being a nonentity and feeling herself less than others.
Elisa’s life changes for good when Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) brings in a captured amphibian creature to the laboratory facility. From her first gaze at the creature, we realize that Elisa’s fascination will grow throughout the movie. Elisa is, next to the scientist ‘Bob’ Hoffstetler, one of the very few people who treat the creature with respect. Although their motivations to save the creature may differ from each other, they both end up being at the same side and try to prevent the creature from being killed.
Knowing that the movie is set in the 60s and the Cold War was going on at the time, the Americans seize the chance to study the creature and gain advantages over the Soviet Union in the Space Race. Strickland also proves himself to be a very unpleasant man, often feeling superior to others. His hatred and disdain toward the amphibian creature only grow after the latter bites off a few fingers of Strickland. Strickland continues to torture the creature, prompting Elisa to free it from its dire circumstances with the help from her friends.
The relationship Elisa develops with the Amphibian Man is extraordinary and in some way emotional – only Del Toro could make a relationship between a mute and a fish/man hybrid believable. And in today’s society, this strange formula works.
The message Del Toro tries to convey is simple but strong and works for a large group of our modern society. Love between people knows no boundaries, but how open-minded can we be today? Should we applaud the relationship between a woman and an animal or should we reprimand this very idea? Even though Del Toro’s purpose is to show the world that we should accept every form of love, he’s certainly braving the lion in his den with this movie. Aside from the fascinating story, the Shape of Water is a work of art when it comes to direction and score. I’d be mad if composer Alexandre Desplat (‘Harry Potter soundtrack’) doesn’t win an Academy Award for his exceptional score in ‘The Shape of Water’. The first 10 minutes of the movie were breathtakingly beautiful in terms of visuals and direction. The colours in the movie were somewhat dull but fitted into the atmosphere and the age.
Sally Hawkins was the true revelation of the movie. She made her character, Elisa Esposito, absolutely believable and loveable. It’s certainly not an easy job to convey emotions and to add layers to a character when you’re not able to use verbal language. In retrospect, Hawkins was truly outstanding playing a mute woman being in love with the weirdest creature on earth. Richard Jenkins’ Giles was another loveable character, struggling to accept his age and believing himself to be born in the wrong era. Back in the sixties, homosexuality and skin colour were still a great issue (and still is today). Talking about skin colour, Octavia Spencer’s Zelda also faced prejudice because of her status as African-American. Zelda was, just like Gile, a kind-hearted character, with whom we fell in love rather quickly. Octavia Spencer proves again to be a class actress and makes us care about her character, even though she doesn’t get that much screen time. Michael Shannon is a phenomenal actor as well, but I wasn’t as investigated in his character, to be honest. Shannon’s acting was just fine, but the character was too flat or one-sided. We were ‘too much forced’ to accept him as the evil guy and no redeeming qualities were given to his character. I missed the complexity of his character.
If you’re about to go to the movies and you have absolutely no idea what movie you should watch, don’t hesitate and give ‘The Shape of Water’ a chance. For some people, the whole concept might go a bit too far for what’s good, but the core message is undeniable a positive one. You’ll certainly get positive vibes from this one. And if you’re not going for the story, then you should check him out just for the score and direction. Del Toro depicts himself once again as a true artist and master of the cinema craftsmanship. And if you were a fan of Pan’s Labyrinth, then checking out ‘The Shape of Water’ is a no-brainer.