Venice Film Festival 2017: THE SHAPE OF WATER [REVIEW]
13 Sep, 2017
THE SHAPE OF WATER (2017), which won the GOLDEN LION for Best Film at the 74th Venice Film Festival and is written and directed by Guillermo del Toro (USA), is a powerful and ironic fantasy of a love story between Elisa (Sally Hawkins) and a mysterious monster, who is held captive for scientific experimental purposes. The film pushes the boundaries of love and is centered around a creature we have not seen before. However, the film is set in the familiar time of 1960s, at the height of the Cold War—a time of power, anger and intolerance.
Hawkins’ character is a mute cleaning woman, who is in awe of the monster and has a romance with this creature, which has been hauled up from the dark, depths of the ocean. The monster possesses the adaptive qualities of water and psychic capabilities to heal human beings. And the love between it and Elisa defies suspicion, fear and biology. “What propels Elisa into the unknown is the power of love” explains Hawkins.
Del Toro’s talented, all-star cast consists of Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg and Octavia Spencer. The filmmaker explains: “I wanted to create a beautiful, elegant story about hope and redemption as an antidote to the cynicism of our times. I wanted this story to take the form of a fairytale in that you have a humble human being who stumbles into something grander and more transcendental than anything else in her life. And then I thought it would be a great idea to juxtapose that love against something as banal and evil as the hatred between nations, which is the Cold War, and the hatred between people due to race, color, ability and gender.”
Neither of the film’s main characters have the ability to speak, implying the power of love, which Del Toro says “doesn’t require words.” Hawkins provides a moving performance without verbally saying word, but effectively expresses her character’s feelings and desires with powerful nonverbal communication that the audience can feel. Merging the pathos and thrills of the classic monster movie tradition with shadowy film noir, this intense and uncommon beautiful love story explores audiences’ fantasies that we all flirt with, the mysteries we can’t control and the monstrosities we must confront.
The films Del Toro is best renowned for are his three inspired Spanish-language films that reinvent and upend the very notion of genre: the multiple Oscar®-winning PAN’S LABYRINTH, CRONOS, and THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE. He is also well-known for his inventive supernatural action epics: BLADE II, the HELLBOY series, and PACIFIC RIM, as well as his gothic romance CRIMSON PEAK. THE SHAPE OF WATER is set to be released December 8, 2017.