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The Shape of Water

Water bannerIn his acceptance speech for Best Director at the British Academy Film Awards, Guillermo Del Toro paid tribute to Mary Shelley. This attention highlights the significance of the female voice in Del Toro’s films, which in The Shape of Water is significant by its absence. Eliza Esposito (Sally Hawkins) mutely observes the world of early 1960s Baltimore, her silence one of several forms of alienation depicted in the film. Eliza’s friend and fellow janitor, Zelda Fuller (Octavia Spencer) is alienated from her distant husband and also from others by racial prejudice, especially that which is exhibited by Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon), who seems intent on alienating himself from everyone. Eliza’s neighbour Giles (Richard Jenkins) is alienated both professionally and personally by his sexuality; Dr Robert Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) is alienated from different groups by his commitment to science over politics; and in the heart of the research institute where much of the drama takes place, the Amphibian Man (Doug Jones) is alienated by being different to everyone around him. Yet amongst these forms of alienation, Del Toro weaves a delicate and beautiful story of connection, beauty that includes Paul D. Austerberry’s exquisite production design as well as Alexandre Desplat’s haunting and evocative score. As in Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone, the fantastic is laced with the political as well as often brutal violence. More distinctly, there is an unashamed embrace of female sexuality, as Eliza is defined not by her disability but by her recognition of mutuality, mutuality that connects her to all around her despite apparent differences. This extends to the film as a whole which, despite its overt strangeness, offers a universality that envelops its characters and audience in a shifting and all-encompassing shape, rather like that of water.

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12 Comments

  1. […] The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor […]

  2. […] The Shape of Water, Glen Gauthier, Christian Cooke, Brad Zoern
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  3. […] The Shape of Water, Paul D. Austerberry, Jeffrey A. Melvin, Shane Vieau (predicted winner) […]

  4. […] The Shape of Water, Alexandre Desplat (predicted winner) […]

  5. […] wanted The Shape of Water to win Best Picture but expected that award to go to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. […]

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