Director: Guillermo del Toro
Release date: December 1, 2017 (USA)
Cast: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg and Octavia Spencer
You might have heard of this beast at this year’s Oscars. With thirteen nominations and the winner of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Score, and Best Production Design, the movie seems to be all that us film fanatics talk about. So, what makes this movie so special?
Firstly, the premise is bound to make you sit up and take notice. A mute cleaner at a top-secret government facility falls in love with a mysterious, amphibious creature in Cold War America? Whoever heard of such a maddeningly fascinating plot?
The film is Toro’s love letter to science fiction and magic realism. This unique genre itself lends a ghostly, ethereal quality to the film. The opening scenes show a dark room flooded with water with various bits of furniture floating around and a lady sleeping on a couch soundly. The sepia-coloured picture transforms what could have been just another Jules Verne wannabe to something that is very unique and yet, hauntingly beautiful.
Elisa, the protagonist of the film, is a mute cleaner with scars on her neck and a lonely neighbour Giles who appears to be her best friend. She works at a clandestine government facility engaged in various freakish experiments. One day, she meets a monstrous creature, who is apparently worshipped as a river God in the waters of the Amazon. With baby steps, Elisa and the creature (nicknamed the Asset) spend time together which ultimately leads to a grand escape plan whereby the creature lands up in her apartment. What follows is probably one of the strangest and yet, heart-warming love stories portrayed on screen.
Water is everywhere in the film: in the regular masturbation routine of Elisa in her bathtub, the signboards that pop up in the background, the thick, suffocating rain that comes down when Elisa and the Asset are escaping from the government, the room where they make love. There is fluidity in the music too, Alexendre Desplat’s score taking the viewers in a magical, unstoppable ride; in a particularly heartbreaking scene, the mute Elisa imagines she is singing to the creature across the table about how much she loves him.
The Hellboy director leaves us with a deep reckoning about what is true love and its manifestations. The film is also a story about the primal struggle between good and evil. It also underscores the importance of having a harmonious relation with nature and its patrons. But, most importantly, The Shape of Water teaches us how to love with carefree abandon, without fear and without malice.
Feature Image Credits: Forbes