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Being praised around the world as one of the best films of the year
from people visiting festivals, The Shape of Water is Guillermo Del
Toro's latest venture into the strange and moving area of film. From
Pan's Labyrinth to recent films like Pacific Rim, I've always enjoyed
watching his films. While I won't be praising this film as much as some
people have been, it will easily be receiving a recommendation from my
end, but to the right crowd. The Shape of Water is a beautiful, yet
strange tale of romance, and even though you've seen this particular
story many times over, I feel as though there is enough of a fresh spin
to win fans over. Here are my thoughts on The Shape of Water.
To get this out of the way, people will surely be going into this film and receiving flashbacks from films like Beauty and the Beast, Splash, or even Shrek. Taking place in a fantasy world where men capture exotic creatures and use them to experiment on, Eliza discovers the creature after being tortured. Forming a very close bond with him, forming a plan to help him escape, and having him stay in her bathtub where he can have room to breathe, this very quickly becomes a very strange romantic tale that people will either buy into or find themselves wondering why they're watching this movie in the first place.
Throughout the course of the film, certain characters will present themselves in order to provide fear to the creature or to make you side with him, so that the story may progress. There are some definite forced aspects about this film, but when everything is filmed and presented so wonderfully, it's hard to let that clash with your enjoyment of the movie as a whole. To add to that, it was clear that certain scenes or lines of dialogue were added to the film in order to give it a sense of realism, but some of the vulgarity actually took me out of the overall experience, due to the fact that it wanted to get you emotionally invested at the same time. You'll know what I mean if you choose to check out this film.
Aside from appearances in Paddington or Blue Jasmine, I'd never really thought about Sally Hawkins as a leading lady of a major production, but sometimes you're proved to be severely wrong, because her performance here floored me. I was incredibly invested in every single moment her character was on-screen and anything I didn't like about this movie faded away every time she interacted with someone and had to display her emotions through her sign language or by just simply tearing up or showing emotion through her eyes. I will be remembering this performance as one of the best of the year by year.
In the end, where I think this film slightly fails is in its addition of human villains. The Shape of Water is a beautiful romance at its core, but I didn't feel the movie shows quite enough of it to really be a masterpiece, even though the production designers sure made it feel like a damn elegant piece of cinema. If for nothing else, the set design, along with the visual effects and art direction will surely be included in the awards season to come, because it's some of the best I've seen all year (possibly even the absolute best). Overall, I can call The Shape of Water a damn solid film, but it's not quite as wonderful as I was hoping it would be, To fans of strange or unique films, I recommend you check out this movie. Many people seem to be adoring this film, and while I agree that it's impressive, it's just hard not to compare it to many similar concepts.
If I was to tell you about Guillermo Del Toro's new film what would I
As the father of dark fantasy, Guillermo Del Toro knows how to bring alive the illusive wonderlands and nightmares we can relish and transform them into wonderful poignant crafts of insight and meaning, and The Shape of Water is no exception. With its journey from Venice to Toronto, The Shape of Water has now hit the London Film Festival, now within reach of this exuberant critic. I had only the budget to see one film at this year's festival and I most certainly made a wise decision.
During the Cold War conflict of the 60s, a mute but hearing Eliza (Sally Hawkins) works as a cleaner at a secret government facility, where she becomes drawn to the new specimen: a mysterious marine creature (Doug Jones). While Eliza begins to fall in love with it, the facility head Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon), only desires to take the creature apart for experimental advantage against the Russians. Eliza's bond with the creature soon begins to effect those around her: her neighbour Giles (Richard Jenkins), work college Zelda (Octavia Spencer) and scientist Robert Hoffsteder (Michael Stuhbarg) What is amazing profound about Del Toro's latest work is its eccentric visualisation in reflection of the political and social conceptions of the past , but also today. The most centralised end is the the treatment of those who are different. Directly dealing with the fantasy of other species but intertwined with racial treatment relevant to the time in which the film is set, and then of course against the back drop of the national conflicts, but then also the value of those with deficiencies, as portrayed by Sally Hawkins.
More distant from his darker tones in, Pan's Labyrinth, and Crimson Peak, but not far from the surreal fantasy, The Shape of Water becomes more grounded than previous Del Toro films, and diversely more lighter and funnier. With frequent laughs and jokes on screen, the romantic fantasy is a much light hearted watch, of course not without its moment of bloody violence but at a lower volume. What may be hard for some audiences to get their head around, is this idea of an inter-species relations and with the astonishing design of the creature itself becomes something more than just a fish costume. The bond and sexuality of this romance is a significant thread to the film and is one that featured heavily with its repetitive moments of adult content. But what Del Toro explores its is real beauty in love and within the context of the film it does becomes something remarkable.
Sally Hawkins is exceptional in her vigorous performance as the mute Eliza, with dynamic sign language and spirited facial expressions, we see the isolated heart of the "princess without voice" which makes her connection to this solitary creature all the more real. Opposite her is the confident physical actor Doug Jones, manning the rubber suit of the creature in a brilliant bodily performance, outdoing his previous collaborative performances with Del Toro. Then Michael Shannon sensationally brings the real monster to the tale in Strickland, the dominating Colonel facing his battle in masculinity as well as with the creature. Shannon gives one of the best performances of his career, keeping with that classic fairy tale juxtaposition of man being the real monster.
As with all Del Toro's dark fantasies, it all becomes about the characters. Eliza reaching out to another like herself. Strickland trying to maintain his power and masculinity in his skirmish with the creature and Eliza. Hoffsetider being caught between to sides but seeking his own right, and Giles trying to find his significance back in society.
As never fails with a Del Toro films is the signature production design that brings to life these magnificent worlds. The Shape of Water although is not full Del Tory fairy tale land, does have a very extraordinary construct of the real world, from Eliza's apartment to the secret facility, echoing the true Gothic universe of the real world. Opening in a momentous title sequence, Del Toro literally floods the screen in ravishing visual effects and segments. Only more so combined with the inescapable talents of cinematographer: Dan Laustsen, swiftly moving from one room to the next in a mythical immersive experience alluring us furthermore into the depths of the story and art work of the film.
The Shape of Water is a wonderfully weird, quirky, heart-warming, extraordinary piece of cinema. For fans who have found Del Toro's previous works too dark or scary, will be delighted by this much more charming fantasy.
Guillermo del Toro's wonderful fable "my favourite thing I've ever
done" is kind of like Arrival starring Amélie, as a shy, mute cleaner
(Sally Hawkins) at a government base begins to communicate with the
aquaman in the tank, and feels the first flickerings of love.
Set like my last film at the LFF, On Chesil Beach in 1962, it's really about today: a plea for tolerance in the light of Trump and co's war on Muslims, blacks and gays, and a monster movie in which the monster isn't the Other, it's right-wing, gung-ho America, represented here by Michael Shannon, as a psychotic vet in a teal Cadillac who'll beat the living crap out of anything that doesn't conform to his very specific notion of a person. The toxic machismo and vicious hatred of otherness isn't restricted to him, though, it's endemic: and hiding behind the most benign of fronts.
Shot in a rich, stylised palette of greens and browns (admittedly more City of Lost Children), set partly above an old, working cinema and filled with little visual effects though with a creature who's delightfully and resolutely real it reminded me of nothing as much as Amélie. That 2001 movie might be the last time I felt quite so charmed by a lead character as by Hawkins' Eliza Esposito, whose increasingly appealing, steely, sexy performance recalls that holy trinity of great mute turns: Dorothy McGuire in The Spiral Staircase, Samantha Morton in Sweet and Lowdown and Jane Wyman in Johnny Belinda, and is just as full of nobility and pathos; just as lacking in gimmickry.
There's nice work too from Richard Jenkins, who is frequently held hostage in underwhelming comedies, but showed in Tom McCarthy's 2007 masterpiece, The Visitor that he's just about the best actor in America when he can be bothered. As Eliza's gay flatmate, a struggling, alcoholic advertising artist, he's never self-pitying or trite, and those traits no more define who he is than the fact he's bald.
The plot is fine: diverting, involving and well-balanced between moments of intrigue, suspense and humour, but it's the passages of poetry that completely bewitched me, including one sequence in a waterlogged bathroom that took the breath away.
There's another beguiling flight of fancy that memorably references Fred and Ginger's 'Let's Face the Music and Dance', and music is critical to this film: Hawkins and Jenkins engage in an impromptu tap, Alexandre Desplat equips her with the most enchanting theme, and del Toro exhibits his great love for and understanding of classic Hollywood by including several clips from old Fox musicals, including Bojangles and Shirley Temple in The Little Colonel and colour clips of Alice Faye and Carmen Miranda rendered in the monochrome of '60s tube TV. Realising that I was in a cinema in which a modern audience was being forced to watch old footage of Alice Faye, and listen to a short monologue discoursing on her ill- fated Hollywood career was just the most delightful thing.
So a sci-fi, a horror, a monster movie, a romance, a Cold War thriller, and a history lesson about Alice Faye: this genre-bender is many things, but above all it's an emotional experience, a clear- sighted, glowing-hearted picture with some of the most beautiful imagery and a performance I'm going to be rhapsodising about for weeks, months, years.
To be seen and desired for who we truly are; it is the passionate wish
of many. For Elisa, an unassuming and kind-hearted maid in a 1960s era
government lab, this wish is granted in an unusual way. Virtually
invisible and isolated, yet content in her little bubble, Elisa is
lured from this comfort zone as she witnesses the arrival of a strange,
monstrous sea creature in the lab. Despite warnings to keep her
distance, Elisa sympathizes with the suffering creature. It is in
chains and tortured by Strickland, a sadistic and violent government
agent. This wild creature is impulsive. It responds to aggression with
the same, and to kindness with kindness. As the cruelty of Strickland
escalates, Elisa decides she must act to save the creature. Friendly
and opposing forces emerge from unlikely places to help or hinder her.
Love and light hinge on the erratic hearts of monsters and humans
This thrilling, touching and surreal film explores the many forms and aspects of monsters. The worst monster of them all is the human heart, and yet it is also the most kind and beautiful. The film offers apt encouragement to speak up and act when others are in trouble and in pain. In this world of rising fascists who peddle hatred and opposition to science, art, sympathy and basically to all humanity, such encouragement is sorely needed.
With expressive eyes and strong empathy, Sally Hawkins is amazing and mesmerizing in her portrayal of Elisa. Michael Shannon is perfectly cast as the crude, cruel, sarcastic and controlling Strickland. In Strickland's sinful, selfish and negative world, the monster is better off dead. The supporting cast is wonderful. The film is full of depth and splendor. The Southern United States is the setting, yet the film was shot in Toronto. The theater that appears prominently on screen is the very same theater (the Elgin) in which I saw the film at the Toronto International Film Festival. I went into the theater with high hopes and was not disappointed.
This has absolutely so much going for it - beautifully filmed, with a
magnificent, sweeping score and a stunning performance from Sally
Hawkins - but crashes and burns in sentiment, cliché and cartoon
supporting acts. It comes across, ultimately, as a cack-handed mash up
of "E.T.", "Splash" and "The Creature From the Black Lagoon", as an
aquatic man is captured and brought into a secret military American
laboratory in the 1960s at the height of the cold war, and Sally
Hawkins' mute cleaner develops a bond with it and, ultimately, falls in
Sounds interesting, doesn't it? It certainly has potential, but if the sassy black friend, constantly yammering on about her feckless husband (Octavia Spencer, surely tiring of this kind of role) doesn't get you, or the inefficient gay neighbour/best friend (Richard Jenkins - not his finest two hours) or Michael Shannon's cartoonish, 2D villain, then stay tuned for the ghastly black-and-white fantasy dance number, in which Hawkins and the creature cavort on an elaborate set like Astaire and Rogers. It truly is a ghastly mis-step, jaw-droppingly stupid. The film never really recovered for me, and it lumbered to its predictable climax and ending with numbing melodramatics and sentiment.
"The Shape of Water" is an artistic giant. Best movie of the decade...it's that good. From its opening images to its last frame del Toro weaves a multi-dimensional feast for the eyes, ears, heart and mind. A magical love story that plays your heart-strings with the kind of creativity a fantastic dream might unfold without the constraints of plausible segues or limits from physical reality. Yet, del Toro weaves such multidimensional elements delightfully and seamlessly. Images and music present implausible suggestions that brighten heart-mind connections like a drug that just kicked in. After feeling joyfully uplifted in one piece of amazing synthesis next you find yourself writhing in horror from human cruelty, until the next surprising turn. "The Shape of Water" will be a timeless classic and winner of many awards. People will see this movie multiple times and feel delighted, horrified, and amazed each time.
Every now and then a work of cinema arrives in theaters that completely
challenges one's conception of what a film can be. A groundbreaking
technical and thematic masterpiece, Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy
director Guillermo del Toro accomplishes something that on paper seems
impossible; what is essentially a comedic Cold War body horror musical
romance between a mute woman and a mermaid. Not only does the modern
master of movie monsters blend such an eclectic variety of genres into
a single storyline, but he also does so without any sense of
convolution or confusion, exhibiting a technical mastery that allows
the film to seamlessly flow between its fantastical elements and social
realism as well as stand as a work of art on its own. What Del Toro's
latest film offers is not merely a stylistic spectacle, but also a
thoughtful meditation on the nature of love and its ultimate lack of
Before directing my appraisals towards the film's exceptional ensemble performances, thematic resonance and technical ingenuity, I feel it necessary to discuss what's on the surface. The film's production design is, simply put, outstanding. Set within the cultural bubble of early 1960s Baltimore, you can tell del Toro feels a genuine love for the aesthetic of the era, between the beauty of the grandiose operatic cinema to the humorously polite manner in which the characters converse with one another. This is contrasted by the grim color palette of the facility that Eliza (Sally Hawkins) and Zelda (Octavia Spencer) work in, a white male-dominated hierarchy in which minorities are abused like slaves. Even outside of the facility, del Toro never shies away from the darkness behind this maintained superficial beauty. Racism, sexism and homophobia are ever present as shop owners reject minorities to preserve their all-white family aesthetic and Col. Strickland (Michael Shannon) exerts his dominance over the wife of his nuclear family in a truly sickening way. However, unlike most period pieces, there is no protest or fight for change. The superficial world remains solid through every horrible injustice committed, for these characters live in the 60s, where there is an understanding (or at least a belief) that things won't change. The characters accept these injustices for it's all they can do, strengthening and almost excusing the central interspecies love story so that it resonates all the more deeply.
From a technical perspective, the film truly mimics the element of its title. It's camera-work floats towards and around its characters while its transitions flow into one another like water. Del Toro maintains such a rhythmic pace via his use of editing, usually cutting on sound to craft a film that is as auditory as it is visual. The film's ensemble of is just as stunning. Against the backdrop of the 1960s del Toro's protagonists consist of different social outcasts, placing the authoritative white male in the role of an antagonist who takes full advantage of his societal superiority complex. Octavia Spencer as Zelda (Eliza's black co-worker) and Richard Jenkins as Giles (Eliza's gay neighbor) provide much of the film's comedic relief through their simultaneous embodiment and subversion of the era's stereotypes. While one could argue that their roles of the closeted gay confidante and the black maid are cliché, both characters display a strong awareness for their prejudiced status, with both resolving to disobey the conventions society has imposed on them; a decision that sets them apart from most portrayals of 1960s minorities. Michael Shannon offers another compelling performance as an abusive sociopath, and some of his actions (such as the aforementioned scene with his wife) impressively disgust in a world in which audiences are so desensitized to violence and on-screen abuse.
Supporting characters aside, the standout of this film is without question Sally Hawkins, whose performance as a mute woman forces upon her the unique challenge of making an audience empathize with her in spite of a lack of speech. She does this through her playfulness; her love of art, particularly music and musicals, the way she tap dances her way to work when no one is watching, and palpable emotions that require no voice to express. Her sign language offers one of the film's most spectacular visuals, and del Toro knows this, choosing to place the subtitles as close to her hands as possible so as not to detract too much attention.
Though more attention could have been diverted to Doug Jones as the Asset, and the creature's general quirky mannerisms, it is the scenes that he shares with Eliza that are the film's most tender. Throughout Eliza's interactions with her two friends (Zelda and Giles), while it's established that the two characters care about her deeply, we get the sense that her muteness is being taken advantage of, as both endlessly vent their personal struggles and anxieties to her with no one to cut them off. Such is the reason for Eliza's infatuation with the Asset, itself a speechless creature that doesn't see Eliza as incomplete in the slightest. When the two finally bring their relationship to the next level, like the supporting cast, we the audience have no problem accepting it. Both employ wildly different means of communication; Eliza's an organized series of gestures whereas the Asset's are primal and animalistic. However, when the two finally bring their relationship to the next level, like the supporting cast, we the audience have no problem accepting it.
The Shape of Water is hardly a fantasy. Ultimately, it's a film about tolerance. An allegory for all of history's outcasts that attempts to shine a light on the conditions from which real monsters are born. Like it's moral message of acceptance, del Toro extends this inclusion to his audience, accepting fans of all genres, offering something truly enjoyable for every kind of moviegoer. The Shape of Water is an extremely confident mesh of comedy, romance, horror, drama and musicals, with enough technical wizardry to impress any cinephile.
This is about a deaf mute cleaning lady learning to communicate in
secret with gentle giant of a creature being experimented on and
tortured by a US government agency.
She pities the way he is treated and that leads to displays of kindness and affection that are returned by the monster.
It is a lavish production with a few twists and turns along the way; it is suitable for all. I think it will become a classic before long.
A wonderful bonus was the way the two leading ladies played off of each other.
Truly a delightful film.
At my screening there was a very memorable Q&A with the director that I would like to share.
There were some rather technical questions about Japanese influences in his film (I will look for when I see it again).
The amount of time and effort to make a real (man in a suit) rather than CGI monster and that he financed it out of pocket for more than a year before he got financing from Fox.
A question about his colour pallet, and a comparison of his film with Beauty in the Beast from a little girl in the audience who spoke in Spanish.
He used this question as a springboard to talk about a few topics that were on his mind. You might know the director is from Mexico and now lives in Toronto. He went on to say that many of the problems in the United States are not the fault of Mexico.
Also, that the reason that there is so much conflict in the United States is because it is intentionally being done by the government.
It is pulling people apart and making them fight each other, because, it doesn't want people uniting together to go after the real problem, the 1%.
He said this to great applause. I hope that he has an opportunity to speak to many people about his view of America.
This film BTW was filmed in Toronto and premiered in the theatre that was used for many of the scenes.
Just watched it at TIFF and as much as I knew it would be beautiful,
nothing prepared me to be so very moved by the story, the way it was
told and the delicate details that make of this the most beautiful,
moving story I have ever watched.
Of course I cried more than once, and over 2 hours after leaving the movie theater (the same where the movie was actually filmed in Toronto), my heart is still heavy in an uplifting and hopeful way.
There aren't any words to describe this gorgeous piece of art... as usual.. the effects, the creatures, the colors and most importantly, the words of the narrator (just like in Pan's) move you to no end...
Set during the 1960's space race in Baltimore, the story is a beautiful
sci-fi fairy tale that explores the unexpected love between the mute
cleaning lady Eliza (Sally Hawkins) and the mysterious amphibious
creature (Doug Jones) trapped at the government facility she works at.
When Eliza escapes with the creature thanks to the help from a gallery
of colourful characters, we see the bond between woman and creature
grow from mutual friends to lovers. And if that sounds like it wouldn't
work on film, Guilllermo Del Torro can sell it and make it work.
While the story of a mute women falling in love with the Creature from the Black Lagoon sounds simple, Shape of Water is anything but which helps it to speak relevance to today's Trump-age judgmental society. Each character is so wonderfully defined and explored through arcs that relate to back Del Torro's classic narratives about the underdog, persecuted and the silenced. We root for Eliza and the creature's relationship because they both know the feeling of people not understanding who they are. With her voice literally being robbed as an infant, Eliza lives a life of silence and always listening but wants someone who truly looks past her disability. Her routinely morning masturbation tells how she how wishes to be loved both physically and emotionally. Only called "the Asset", the creature is an anomaly of nature that also wishes for comfort especially since he was taken away from his native home in the Amazon and forced to be a prisoner and experiment for the US government. Eliza's best friend Zelda (Octavia Spencer) lives in a strained relationship with a husband who ignores her at home. This leaves her to talk to about her marital problems to her mute friend who automatically listens. Eliza's neighbour and father-figure Giles (Richard Jenkins) is a failing advertisement artist who feels out of place in the world because of his age and homosexuality. The scientist/Russian spy Dimitri (Michael Stuhlberg) feels conflicted between his home country and the preservation of the Asset when both the Americans and Russians seek its death to each further their agenda in the Space Race. Even the villain Strickland (Michael Shannon) has his own ark. He constantly sees whether they are women, lower class, African American or non-human creatures are beneath him and wishes to be part of what he perceives to be the future of a better America but fears being left behind in the past. These characters struggle with communication in different ways from living in silence, hiding their true selves from a judgmental world, not having their ideas understood or preferring to have others be silent.
As expected with Del Torro, his visually stunning colour palette is ever present with each shot of the film. From the wardrobe, the look of the government facility, the vehicle to even the food, green dominates the film reflecting off of cool, organic algae and water. With the cinematographer Paul D. Austerberry, he creates long panning shots that move so beautiful and organic which leads to an amazing dance sequence that would put La La Land to shame. Vanessa Taylor whom has wrote a few episodes of Game of Thrones, has written some of the best work I have seen Del Torro direct.
Sally Hawkins is the true standout of this show. While not having to use dialogue (minus that one amazing dance sequence I mentioned), she relies on so much sincere and emotional expressions to really show how her character thinks and reacts. I will say it will be criminal if she doesn't get nominated for best actress next year. This being his 6th film working with Del Toro, Doug Jones as the Asset brings mime-like hand gestures and human-like curiosity and soul to make the this character feel believable and intelligent. Just like in Hidden Figures this year, Octavia Spencer is just a breath of fresh air to watch and ads so much fun to the scenes. Richard Jenkins nearly steals the show with his dry witted and charming performance as his character Giles. While some may say Michael Shannon is getting type-cast as villains, his performance is a reminder why he is so amazing at it.
Guillermo Del Torro I have always loved to watch whether his films are these prestigious art pieces or just fun blockbusters. But Shape of Waters feels like new ground that he has tapped into. At the Q & A at TIFF, the reason for him creating this story was a response to how America's persecution of minorities had risen since the Trump's presidential campaign. This is the most relevant film Del Toro has made and is his best masterpiece since Pan's Labyrinth.
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