Sensational director Guillermo del Toro is back to his roots with The Shape of Water. And it’s making a serious splash.
The Shape of Water takes audiences back to the fairy-tale style of earlier movies. The story explores the relationship between mute cleaner Elsa and the creature at the government facility where she works. The premise and plot are a little bizarre, but comfortably so. The plot seems interwoven around some deeper message, as is the case with most of his movies. But there is no explicit social commentary. It is the audience’s job to fill that gap.
The cold war backdrops The Shape of Water, but it never delves too deep into the background conflict. The cold war element of the movie serves more as a cinematic backdrop than a scathing social commentary, like in Pan’s Labyrinth.
Del Toro uses a generous amount of tropes, especially regarding Michael Shannon’s classic bad-guy role. But with the lighter tone, the movie is freer to explore other themes: love, unity, oneness. Or rather, we are freer to explore the themes within the film.
The Shape of Water is at heart a love story, although it feels abstracted enough as to be universally symbolic.
Neither the creature or Elsa can speak, and it is through this commonality that they transcend differences of species. And symbolically, other boundaries like race, class, gender, and sexuality. But it’s difficult to entirely indulge in the symbolism when the couple grows more intimate with each other. Things get a little strange then, but it’s all light-hearted.
The creature design was also the best we’ve seen yet from del Toro. He has always favoured physical costume design over post-production. The amphibian man is no different. He looks all the more real for his physical design. This feels homelier amidst the huge shift towards digital effects in modern cinema. There is still some digital effects, but they aren’t noticeable. The amphibian man is of course played by long-time collaborator, Doug Jones, who plays nearly all of del Toro’s monsters. His acting is impeccable, as is lead actress Sally Hawkins’s.
The relationships between other characters is excellently written and performed. The one-sided dialogue between Elsa and every other character is surprisingly evocative. This puts all the more emphasis on Elsa and the amphibian man’s relationship.
The colour scheme of the movie really sets it out visually. The vast majority of the sets are coloured entirely in varying shades of blue and green: a kind of teal. This reflects the coldness of the outside world, the coldness of water, and also the historical context.
Written by Edward Jones – Student Pages Sub Editor