'The Shape of Water': An astutely mounted fairy tale (Review By Troy
Ribeiro, Rating: ***1/2)
Director Guillermo del Toro's "The Shape of Water" is a beautiful, yet strange tale of romance that would remind you of films like "Beauty and the Beast", "Shrek" or even "Splash", but unlike these films, this one is a patronisingly laboured fairy tale.
The story set in the Cold War era of early 1960s, is told in a straightforward manner, like that of a fairy tale.
The film begins with visuals of an apartment immersed in water with the furniture and all things floating. A voiceover that accompanies the visuals begins the narrative with, "If I spoke about it, if I did, what would I tell you? I wonder... I don't know what I'll tell you about her, the princess without a voice or perhaps I'll just warn you about the truth about these facts and the tale of love and lost and the monster who tried to destroy it all."
This unsure demeanour sets the tone of the film revealing the lonely routine of Elisa Esposito a hearing unimpaired but mute girl who works as a janitor at a research centre.
One day while cleaning the lab, she stumbles upon a humanoid creature known as "The Asset" who is brought there for experimentation. We are told this creature, the Amphibian Man was found in the Amazon marshes and is worshipped by the indigenous people of Amazon as "God".
How she forges a close bond with him and plans his escape, forms the crux of the tale.
While the film is astutely mounted and presented wonderfully with lavish production designs by Paul Denham Austerberry, it's the plot and characterisation that seems forced. This is quite evident when Elisa discovers the creature in his tank. She is literally unfazed and immediately accepts his existence, establishes a line of communication and befriends him.
Similarly, though the supernatural and fantastical are met with a casual acceptance as they would in any fairy tale, the film abounds with a sense of expertly curated magic realism even though there is not anything explicitly magical. This makes it difficult for you to invest in the film emotionally.
But what keeps you hooked to the screen are the remarkable performances, especially that of Sally Hawkins. As Elisa, she emotes with tender emotional transparency and seems flawless like an overgrown child, because she cannot speak, she communicates with sign language and uses broad gestures and facial expressions.
She is aptly supported by; Richard Jenkins as Giles her neighbour who is a hopeless romantic trying to find his place in the world as a gay man, the wryly amusing Octavia Spencer as Elisa's best friend Zelda who is supportive but thinks she should mind her own business, Michael Shannon as the vile head of the research lab who constantly threatens the creature, and Michael Stuhlbarg as Dr. Hoffstetler the considerate scientist. They all have their moments of on-screen glory and their presence make it a robustly populated story.
The work of Doug Jones cannot be ignored in portraying the Amphibian Man as an emotional being with a soulful demeanour, driven by a yearning no less persuasive than that of Elisa.
The visuals, in all hues of aqua, are captured by Dan Laustsen's graceful cinematography. These are complemented throughout with the sweetly eccentric but sumptuously melodic score by Alexandre Desplat.
Overall, the film feels like an elegant piece of cinema but fails to be acclaimed as a masterpiece.
'The Shape Of Water': Fascinating study of indefinable love (Review
By Subhash K. Jha ; Rating: *** ½)
It's a beautifully conceived tale of a love so impossible that it makes our soul shiver in frightened delight. But it remains rather blissfully in the zone of the incredible because of its impossibility.
Director Guillermo del Toro taps the fantasy element and yearning that underlines the very real setting of working class misery. He shoots the film like a morality tale in la-la-land.
There is even a musical number where our mute heroine Eliza (the wonderfully self-effacing Sally Hawkins, last seen doing trivia in "Paddington") bursts into a Judy Garland styled love confession for her object of adoration, a half-human half-amphibian creature she has rescued from a laboratory involved in unmentionable and needless to say, unclassified, international rackets where she works as a janitor.
I know I am tumbling over a torrent of information here. Catch your breath. But that's the shape this shapely film takes in our perception. A kind of breathless ardour pervades the very basic plotline about a lonely spinster heroine, her ageing gay neighbour Giles (Richard Jenkins) and the King Kong like creature whom they hide in their apartment.
The narrative is a fascinating mix of fairytale fantasy and working class desolation spiked with a quirky humour and wacky brutality. It's like Quentin Tarantino gone sober.
Sally Hawkins and Richard Jenkins are almost like Stephen Spielberg's children from "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" who have their own little secret freak-friend hidden in their home.
There is an innocent wonderment secreted in this remarkable film. No doubt about that. But finally what I saw was a very basic skeletal morality tale where a poor brave lonely woman takes on a bully from the Establishment, Richard Strickland (played by the scarily scummy Micheal Shannon) and defeats him because…well, love conquers all. At least in the movies.
To drive home the point of how essential it is to fill our lives with wishful thinking (or, as it happens in this film, wishful sinking since the amour is aqueous) the director situates the drama of Eliza's life in a cinematic stratosphere filled with sounds of delighted shrieks and petrified grunts. You see, Eliza lives in an apartment above a movie theatre and lives a life of suppressed longings.
Hawkins is so majestically mousy in her lovelorn avatar, her battle with the Establishment seems doomed from the start. Making the conflict even more unequal is Michael Shannon's villainy, so vile he makes our Khilji in "Padmaavat" appear humane in comparison. Shannon is a racist, sexist, sadistic lout who uses his brute force with that typically American arrogance that Donald Trump would approve of.
This sense of contemporary conviction compounded with a nostalgia for a time when love was an ache in the heart moving slowly towards the groin, is what makes this film so special.
Denuded of that sense of layered luminosity that we have seen in Guillermo del Toro's best works ("Pan's Labyrinth" and "Crimson Peak"), "The Shape Of Water" would have been a classic children's fairytale if the Beauty did not have the hots for the Beast. Bath tubs will never be a place of innocent contemplation again.
Guillermo del Toro, who faces a copyright infringement lawsuit for "The Shape Of Water", has won the Best Director and Best Picture Academy Awards for the movie at the 90th Oscars ceremony here.Read More
From master story teller, Guillermo del Toro, comes THE SHAPE OF WATER - an other-worldly fable, set against the backdrop of Cold War era America circa 1962. In the hidden high-security government laboratory where she works, lonely Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is trapped in a life of isolation. Elisa’s life is changed forever when she and co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) discover a secret classified experiment.