- Fiona Prior
The Shape of Water
The Shape of Water
Director: Guillermo del Toro
If you found del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth a nightmare parading as a fairy-tale you will be happy to find The Shape of Water is much more of the the princess, prince, wicked monster love story that you expect when a story begins ‘Once upon a time…
Set in Cold War America, The Shape of Water is an enchanted tale of a mute cleaner Elisa (Sally Hawkins) working in a high security Government laboratory who falls in love with a top secret 'asset’. The asset is an amphibian Amazonian monster god who looks very similar to the creature from the black lagoon.
Thousands of allusions to water coalesce in this film. It drips from taps, it pours from the sky, it spills from buckets and over-sized fish tanks; it trickles in silver lines down our heroine’s cheeks. The cinematography and set design of The Shape of Water is exquisite, as it is in all del Toro’s film marvels. Surreal, a little bit gothic, a little bit noir, and with an attention to detail that makes you think that del Toro and his art director are definitely on the spectrum (who else would paint a giant replica of Hokusai's The Great Wave off Kanagawa on a wall than swab green blue paint over the image so that on a subliminal level the audience is completely immersed in their watery theme).
As in the best Beauty and the Beast tale or Princess and a Frog(man) parable, it takes the love of a pure-hearted princess to save our monster god from the grips of…. well, an even worse monster. The actual scary entity in this movie is the darkly handsome and sadistic government security officer Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) who may look like Prince Charming but who is more evil than your average story book bad guy. Strickland believes that the only good Amazonian monster god is a dead Amazonian monster god and is hell-bent on dissecting our Princely amphibian to study his double lung and so, somehow, out do the Russians in the space race. (Excuse me? This one left me a little baffled too).
Green muscle cars, flouro-lime cream pies, ‘happy’ families who look like retro advertisements for a nuclear family on happy pills and a world where the disabled, homosexual, African American and women seem to not count one iota. We enjoy this journey to its happy ending because our band of outsiders save the Amazonian monster god by outsmarting the true monsters!
With his Princess safely in his arms, Amphibian Man waves a fond farewell to this motley crew before diving into the canal to a happy ever after.
Warning! A young friend suggested that were the Amazonian monster god’s genitals visible, this movie would have another rating entirely.
Back to Henry.