With fairytale-like beauty brought to life by vintage aesthetics, The Shape of Water features the ups and downs of living in the 1960s, a time when photography began to replace paintings, franchise restaurants were beginning, instant foodstuffs were being introduced, and the sale of Cadillac cars signalled the future.
Iconic scenes from “old” movies of Hollywood’s golden era bring life to the character’s lives, amidst the increasingly desperate race between America and Russia to keep secrets and gain new ones; and the power of the dominant white American culture is hard to ignore by those who do not fit in; the main characters made up of a mute girl, a closeted gay man, a black family, and the monster.
The Shape of Water is an instant classic - no brazen attempts to blow the viewer’s mind, no blanks to fill up on your own, and nothing to weigh heavily on your thoughts after finishing the movie. It is a love story, plain and simple; with unlikely characters to portray the clear power and resilience of the force that is humanity.
Elisa, the mute protagonist, is a beautiful dreamer in a mundane life; going through the motions of working in a government research facility with her African American friend - a working class woman who rolls with the punches of being a darker coloured person in America. Elisa is empathetic and finds joy in everything, enjoying her painter neighbour’s company watching movies and trying out new pies.
Things take a drastic turn as the research lab receives a new asset in the form of a living creature, an amphibious humanoid captured from the South American rivers, overseen by military man Strickland. Through him, the muscle of military is showcased, as his adherence to protocol and toxic masculinity portrays him as a complete creep of an antagonist.
Elisa grows concerned and compassionate for the captured creature, and soon begins to care for it; her boldness growing to great lengths so much that she hatches a plan to free the fish man from the hell that is the research lab.
Co-written and directed by Guillermo del Toro, the movie is a love letter to the Creature from The Black Lagoon, a monster movie he was a fan of all his life. With his optimistic and romantic visionary, he continues to feature brilliant portrayals of normal people against the powers that be, and villains often are the ones of the system.
Despite the touch of fantasy, the movie is set in all-too-real settings, with overhanging bouts of racism, patriarchy and conformity proving to always be the scarier thing than a sentient monster of unknown origin. The themes of the story are nothing new, but del Toro’s inclusion of disability, colour and simple joys prove his mastery at minimalistic artistry where something as basic as boiling eggs can become a wonderful point of reference in the movie.
With over 50 nominations for every type of film award you can think of, and winning accolades like Best Score, Best Cinematography, and Best Film of the Year, and the Venice Film Festival’s most prestigious award, The Golden Lion, this movie is definitely a must-watch by everyone who is a fan of classical fairy tales, intriguing sub-plots, and love stories that go beyond a romantic nature.
The Shape of Water comes out on 22nd March 2018, starring Sally Hawkins, Doug Jones, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg. For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/foxmovies.my/