“Unable to perceive the shape of you, I find you all around me. Your presence fills my eyes with your love. It humbles my heart, for you are everywhere.” ― Giles, The Shape of Water.
Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo Del Toro’s masterpiece, is one of my favorite fantasy movies. I expected his latest movie, The Shape of Water, to be another fantasy as well. Accompanied by melodious background music, the opening scene shows an underwater room in which a young woman is fast asleep; a fairytale-like narration describes the woman as “the princess without a voice”. All of this sounds like the perfect setting for a fantasy movie. The scene transitions to the cold war era and the princess wakes to an alarm clock. This film is described as a story of love and war where the bad guy tried to destroy it all. However, this line doesn’t do justice to a well-written script. The transition in the very first scene from a fairytale setting to a cold war setting is impressive to watch and leaves the audience glued to their seat until the end.
Our princess here is Eliza, a mute young woman, who leads a mundane life. Being an incredibly shy person, she only has two friends, Giles and Zelda, with whom she communicates in sign language. Her life is quite normal, or as normal as it can be, for someone working as a janitor at a secret government facility. Her life takes a steep turn when Strickland, a scientist, brings in a humanoid-amphibian creature to the facility. Intrigued by the creature, Eliza attempts to communicate with the asset (as named by the scientists) and ends up developing a strange but beautiful connection with it. Although unable to have exchanges with it through speech, Eliza and the creature prove that verbal exchanges aren’t necessary to understand the depth of other’s emotions. Towards the second half of the movie, this friendship blossoms into a sweet love.
Speaking of the 2018 Oscars, this movie has topped the charts with 13 nominations including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actress for Hawkins, Best Supporting Actor for Jenkins, and Best Supporting Actress for Spencer.
With absolutely no dialogues, the actors Sally Hawkins as Eliza and Doug Jones as the asset, deliver in every scene with grace and capture each emotion with their silent actions. My favourite character in this movie is undoubtedly Eliza. Normally a shy and humble woman, she brings out her fierce side when faced by adversities. Sally Hawkins effortlessly transforms herself into this voiceless princess and speaks volumes only through her actions. Hawkins was Mr. Toro’s initial and only choice for the role and, to be honest, I cannot imagine anyone else playing the role of Eliza so well. Richard Jenkins plays the role of Giles, a closeted gay artist, who is like a father to Eliza. Octavia Spencer plays Zelda, who is Eliza’s co-worker, and her sassy dialogues are a great comic relief. Michael Shannon, who plays the role of Strickland, is as ruthless and heartless as they come. This movie is incomplete without all these incredible actors and the amazing roles written for them. As such, the movie winning three nominations for best actor and supporting actors comes as no surprise to me.
It may be a little shocking to learn that Eliza and the asset fall in love. But, to be honest, there are thousands of movies out there like Beauty and the Beast which glorify interspecies-romance. The Ahape of Water definitely stands out in this matter. An excellent screenplay by Del Toro and Vanessa Taylor treats the material so gently and respectfully that the human-amphibian union seems perfectly natural. Every scene is delicately designed and shot. A soul-stirring soundtrack by Alexandre Desplat perfectly fits the atmosphere of a film based in the years of an unforgiving Cold War. This movie is a perfect blend of fantasy and drama, which surely entertains a wide range of audience. Similar to all of his previous movies, Del Toro manages to craft a simple yet beautiful storyline into something so passionate and undying. This is something which will stay in your mind long after you watch it. This realistic fairytale may not win all the 13 awards but is definitely worthy of taking home the Best Picture award.