Del Toro’s latest venture is weird on paper, but a masterpiece in execution, writes Dan Webb
The line-up for this year’s Oscar celebrations was incredibly diverse to say the least, however one film that has intrigued me the most is Guillermo Del Toro’s fantasy The Shape Of Water. This film is possibly one of the most bizarre and out there ideas ever to be put on the screen, fitting considering who the director is. The film, set in the USA in the early 1960’s, tells the story of Eliza Esposito (Sally Hawkins) a young girl who lacks the ability to speak. Eliza works as a cleaning lady in a top secret US facility á la Area 51. The film takes a sharp turn when Eliza discovers that the US is harbouring a strange creature found in the river Amazon dubbed the Amphibian Man (Doug Jones). The film chronicles the building relationship between the two, and the eventual romantic bond shared between them.
Where to start? First off, Sally Hawkins is amazing as Eliza. She managed to pack a powerful emotional punch. The fact that she does this all without uttering a single word is mind-boggling, and I feel she rightfully deserved her Oscar nomination. The supporting cast also give incredibly powerful performances. Richard Jenkins plays Giles, Eliza’s next door neighbour who takes care of her and acts as her best friend in the film. These two are nothing short of adorable together as Giles acts as a father figure for her. Also of note is Michael Shannon’s turn as Richard Strickland, a shady government agent whose mission is to hunt down and kill the creature after it escapes from the facility.
The score for The Shape of Water is mesmerising. It was composed by Alexandre Despot who’s wide variety of work includes a continuing string of collaborations with Wes Anderson, and also probably most known to a mainstream audience for scoring the final two Harry Potter films. Featuring a full set orchestra, it lends a fantastical nature to the film.
The score also darkens at times, with a heavier emphasis on string passages which helps to build tension in a way I would compare to the score for Steven Spielberg’s Jaws .
The quality also stretches to sound including a heavy use of ambient sound which really does help to set the scene. I am also a fan of how Despot mixes in small influences of the music of the time that the film is set in the 1960s, all of this coupled really is in my opinion a strong example of how you use sound to build your world. In short, Despot’s score is very well deserving of its Oscar win.
I think that the most impressive point to bring up about this film is just how unique it is. In an interview with Variety magazine Del Toro revealed that he actually came up with the early concept when he was just six years old. Del Toro talks about how one day he was watching The Creature From The Black Lagoon, and how he believed that the film should have been a romance at heart. He revealed, “I decided I would someday have to correct that.” The fact that this idea has been nearly fifty years in the making is astonishing. It is clear that Del Toro was passionate about his idea and put thought and love into every last detail of the filmmaking process. Del Toro first sketched the design for what would become the Amphibian Man many years ago. Personally I feel that it takes a considerable amount of dedication and love for your concepts and ideals to even follow through with a project such as this.
If five years ago you had told me we would be watching a fairytale about a fisherman falling in love with a young women I would have laughed, but now Del Toro has exceeded my expectations and has delivered one of the best films I have seen in quite a while.
To conclude, it is in my opinion that The Shape Of Water is one of the best films of the year if not the last decade. Del Toro really has proven that he can portray the classic “fish out of water” story on screen (sorry I couldn’t resist).The film was nominated for thirteen Academy Awards and won four, Best Picture, Best Director, Best Production and Best Score. I recommend it to all of you, go and see this film.