Guillermo Del Toro returns to the cinema with an exciting new film, ‘The Shape of Water’.
In the film, we find, therefore, a mute ‘princess’, a heartless antagonist and a monster with a big golden heart. Inspired by the 1954 movie ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon’ which refers to Gill-Man, a hybrid half human-half fish.
The director magnifies a fairy tale by inserting it in a historical context; this experiment has already been tried in the past with ‘The Devil’s Backbone’ then materialised with ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ and taken to the limit with ‘The Shape of Water’.
‘Princess’ Elisa works as a cleaner in a military structure that keeps a creature in confinement. The creature is ideologically mute and does not speak the English language, but quickly learns sign language. Then, of course, there is the antagonist named Strickland, perfect in the role of oppressed and oppressor.
The rest of the story unfolds on a sweet melody, thanks to the work of Alexander Desplat composer of the soundtrack, around which Del Toro turns a simple film not distorting anything narratively, indeed evolving the natural potential of the fairy tale.
We will see that soon comes the feeling of love, then comes the flesh, the private and sexuality; all factors that raise the quality of the film showing new ways to tell the story.
The film wants to investigate the question that all audiences always ask themselves, what happens after the canonical ‘, And they lived happily ever after …’, showing us how that happiness is lived in and out of bed.
Ultimately it is one of those stories we’ve heard dozens of times, but the difference is that the idealised love embraces the reality of love and physical pleasure.
Del Toro uses the monster to tell and act out strong feelings, wondering about who in everyday life is the real ‘monster’. The film wants then to criticise the present-day sick society that enjoys and has fun in subduing the different; just like Strickland takes pleasure in beating a defenceless creature or intimidate a mute woman, even though he is an expendable pawn of the American army.
The rhythm of the film is slightly less active in the second part but is a conscious element wanted by the script, since the film at that point does not require additional interpretative nuances. There is the good, the bad and the characters that populate the background of the story; then we find intrigue, love and redemption.
Del Toro’s film is defined as a product accessible to all, gentle in the narrative and expressive ways, remaining impressive.
What remains is the essential element that the director seems to have realised many years ago, but decided only now to materialise; that fairy tales can be modelled outside the child context. Precisely how the law of water takes the shape of the container in which it is housed, a fairy tale can and must lay in the context of adult themes, however, without having to distort the narrative thread.
Photo by xandtor on Unsplash