You may have figured out, if you have read my blog before, that I am not a chic flick kind of girl. I don’t relish quirky women, finding their match, and having some sort of issue, only for a happy ending to ensue. I don’t like the twee comedy and the awkwardness that comes with it. This means that love stories that I enjoy are rare. They have to be something special, and on the weirder side the tracks for me to want to buy in to it. When I saw the trailer for “The Shape of Water”, I instantly thought, this looks like the film for me. I am English, so for any Americans reading, I am sorry, the film is only just in previews here, and was not out for us to watch back in December, so you can imagine that, after booking my tickets weeks ago for the preview, I have excitedly watch as award nominations have rolled in for this film.
I am not going to talk through the story line, as this is so new out over here, that I don’t want to wreck it for those who haven’t even heard of the film yet, let along thought about booking tickets, but I am going to harp on about how beautiful it is and there may be a couple of inadvertent spoilers.
The cinematography of this film is immense. With shades of blues and greens dominating the scenery and sets, it subliminally gives a watery feel from the start. The visuals are so beautiful, and even in the drab bathroom of Eliza’s apartment (Sally Hawkins), the cracks in the tiles add a certain aspect to the overall feel of the film.
The storyline is a little like Amelie meets the creature from the black lagoon. It is a love story from an age past, where monsters and women can fall in love. There is a wonderful syncopation to the lives of the land dwellers, which accentuates the lives of the characters. Music is a big theme in this film, and Eliza and her neighbour, Giles (Richard Jenkins), movements have a rhythm and beat to show the rituals that we all fall in to in life. The films starts by setting this behaviour, and showing how little, drab looking, mute Eliza, is a dark horse of a human being. The music, brings french romantic cinema to mind, and resonates how Eliza sees love. There is one odd scene, you’ll know what I am talking about if and when you go to see it, but the meaning behind it, is that love can happen to anyone at any time and you can’t help who you fall in love with.
The start of this film has a certain sadness, and while Eliza’s character is a determined and happy little soul, the distance from most people around her gives the air of solitude, which resonates with the other characters that she interacts with. Giles is a gay artist in 1950’s America, fallen for a pie store worker. Her colleague Zelda (Octavia Spencer) is married to a man that doesn’t talk to her, all the people she works with, all seem distant and while they have people around them, they all seem ultimately alone.
This is then magnified at the entry of the creature, Amphibian Man (Doug Jones). Reminiscent of Abe from the “Hell Boy’ franchise, Amphibian Man was captured for experimentation, and was seen as a God from where he was captured from. In a tank all alone, he is deemed dangerous and unapproachable. Until Eliza, without judgement of who he is, befriends him.
This friendship really echoes the racist and homophobic behaviours of the less understanding character in the film. Demonstrating that no matter how people look, communicate or who they fall in love with, deep down, there is the same level of intelligence and emotion which requires the same level of respect and attention.
It’s not all love and watery friendship, there is the American/Russian space race element to this film, with characters such as Strickland (Michael Shannon), who is the “keeper” and judge and jury of Amphibian Man. He treats the creature with no respect and no human emotion, leading to an eventual unhappy ending for him, but he encompasses all the hatred and darkness that all the “good” character encounter. Strickland, has a family around him, but he is ultimately alone, with a wife and kids that no doubt love him, but that just isn’t enough for him, and his eye turns to mute Eliza, as he demonstrates his hatred of any noise. This puts him outside of the normal world’s rhythm which was set in the beginning of the film, rendering him an oddity, but one which attempts to blend in to the “normal” world, the only place where he feels he fits in is his job, and as soon as he does something wrong, he is very quickly cast aside.
I loved the character of Dr. Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg). He is posing as an American doctor, but is a spy for the Russian’s. He bridges the world between the “good” and the “bad”, and shows us that people can break the moulds of what is expected or desired of them, and he is a direct contrast to Strickland.
Even as I am writing this, the more I think about the film, the cleverer I think it is. There are so many subtle elements which resonate throughout the film, leaving its audience with a hauntingly beautiful and weird story which you can very easily relate to and apply the feelings to behaviours we still see today.
I urge you all, with my heart and soul to see this wonderful film. It is not very often that you will see a review where there isn’t something that I haven’t moaned about in a film, as I am overly critical and look for inconsistencies, but this film (as most of Del Toro’s films do) left me mesmerised. Del Toro has written, directed and produced this film, and I can’t tell you how happy I am to see him working in this way again.
Have you seen this film? Why not tell me what you thought in the comments? Like this post? Why not share it?