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The Shape of Water

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The Shape of Water is a 2017 American romantic dark fantasy drama film directed by Guillermo del Toro and written by del Toro and Vanessa Taylor.[4] It stars Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Octavia Spencer. Set in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1962, the story follows a mute custodian at a high-security government laboratory who falls in love with a captured humanoid amphibian creature. Filming took place in Ontario, Canada, between August and November 2016.

The Shape of Water
The Shape of Water (film).png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGuillermo del Toro
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story byGuillermo del Toro
Starring
Music byAlexandre Desplat
CinematographyDan Laustsen
Edited bySidney Wolinsky
Production
companies
Distributed byFox Searchlight Pictures
Release date
  • August 31, 2017 (2017-08-31) (Venice)
  • December 1, 2017 (2017-12-01) (United States)
Running time
123 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Language
  • American Sign Language
  • English
Budget$20 million[2]
Box office$195.2 million[3]

The film was screened in the main competition section of the 74th Venice International Film Festival, where it premiered on August 31, 2017,[5] and was awarded the Golden Lion for best film.[6] It was also screened at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival.[7] It began a limited release in two theaters in New York City on December 1, 2017, before expanding wide on December 23, 2017, and grossed $195 million worldwide.

The Shape of Water received critical acclaim for its acting, screenplay, direction, visuals, production design, and musical score, with many critics calling the film del Toro's best work since Pan's Labyrinth;[8] the American Film Institute selected it as one of the top 10 films of the year.[9] The Shape of Water received a number of awards and nominations, including thirteen nominations at the 90th Academy Awards, where it won for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Production Design, and Best Original Score.[10][11] It was nominated for seven awards at the 75th Golden Globe Awards, winning for Best Director and Best Original Score,[12], twelve at the 71st British Academy Film Awards, winning three awards, including Best Director[13] and fourteen nominations at the 23rd Critics' Choice Awards and won four awards. A novelization by del Toro and Daniel Kraus was published on March 6, 2018.[14]

Contents

PlotEdit

Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) who was found abandoned as a child by the side of a river with wounds on her neck, is mute and communicates through sign language. She lives alone in an apartment above a cinema and works as a cleaner at a secret government laboratory in Baltimore, Maryland, at the height of the Cold War. Her only friends are her closeted next-door neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins) a middle-aged struggling advertising illustrator and Zelda (Octavia Spencer) a co-worker who serves as her interpreter.

The facility receives a mysterious creature captured from the Amazon River by Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) who is in charge of the project to study it. Believing it is just a wild beast, Strickland treats it brutally, repeatedly shocking it with his electric cattle prod. Curious about the creature, Elisa discovers it is a male humanoid amphibian (Doug Jones). She begins visiting him in secret and the two form a close bond as she teaches him sign language.

Seeking to exploit the Amphibian Man for an American advantage in the space race, General Frank Hoyt (Nick Searcy) is eventually persuaded by Strickland to vivisect it. One scientist, Robert Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) - who is really a Soviet spy named Dimitri Mosenkov - pleads unsuccessfully to keep the Amphibian Man alive for further study and, at the same time, is ordered by his Soviet handlers to euthanize the creature. When Elisa overhears the American plans for the Amphibian Man, she persuades Giles to help her free him. Hoffstetler stumbles upon Elisa's plot in progress and chooses to help her. Though initially reluctant, Zelda also becomes involved in the successful escape.

Elisa keeps the Amphibian Man in her bathtub. She plans to release him into a nearby canal when it rains to give access to the ocean in several days' time. Strickland interrogates Elisa and Zelda, among others, but learns nothing. Back at the apartment, Giles discovers the Amphibian Man devouring one of his cats. Startled, the Amphibian Man slashes Giles's arm and rushes out of the apartment. He gets as far as the cinema downstairs, luckily empty of patrons, before Elisa finds him and returns him to her apartment. He touches Giles on his balding head and his wounded arm, and the next morning Giles discovers his hair has begun growing back and the wounds on his arm have healed. After initially walking away, Elisa has sex with the Amphibian Man in her shower. For a later encounter, she fills the bathroom completely with water, which eventually begins to cause water to drip into the theater below. The upset theater owner alerts Giles, who then enters the apartment and opens the bathroom door, interrupting the tryst.

Hoyt unexpectedly arrives and asks for the status of the case. When Strickland questions how much experimentation is enough, he is told he has 36 hours to recover the Amphibian Man or his career and life will be over. Meanwhile, Hoffstetler is told he will be extracted in two days. As the planned release date approaches, the Amphibian Man's health starts deteriorating. Hoffstetler goes to meet his handlers with Strickland tailing him. At the rendezvous, Hoffstetler is shot by a handler before Strickland kills him and then continuously tortures Hoffstetler for information (knowing he is a spy by virtue of having heard him speak Russian to his handler) while asking for the name and rank of who has the creature. Before dying, Hoffstetler implicates Elisa and Zelda. Strickland savagely threatens Zelda in her home until her husband Brewster (Martin Roach) reveals that Elisa has the Amphibian Man (having overheard her conversations). After Strickland's departure, Zelda immediately calls Elisa, warning her to get the creature out immediately. An enraged Strickland arrives and searches Elisa's empty apartment until he finds a calendar note revealing where she plans to release the Amphibian Man.

At the canal, Elisa and Giles are bidding farewell to the creature when Strickland arrives, knocks Giles down, and shoots the Amphibian Man and Elisa. The Amphibian Man quickly heals himself and slashes Strickland's throat, killing him. As police arrive on the scene with Zelda, the Amphibian Man takes Elisa and jumps into the canal, where he heals her. When he applies his healing touch to the scars on Elisa's neck, they open to reveal gills like his; she jolts back to life, and the two embrace. In a closing voice-over narration, Giles conveys his belief that Elisa lived "happily ever after in love" with the Amphibian Man.

CastEdit

  • Sally Hawkins as Elisa Esposito, a mute cleaner who works at a secret government laboratory.
  • Michael Shannon as Richard Strickland, a United States Colonel in charge of the project to study the "asset".
  • Doug Jones as "Amphibian Man", an amphibious creature referred to as the "asset", with whom Elisa forms a close bond.
  • Richard Jenkins as Giles, Elisa's closeted neighbor and close friend who is a struggling advertising illustrator.
  • Octavia Spencer as Zelda Fuller, Elisa's co-worker and friend who serves as her interpreter.
  • Michael Stuhlbarg as Robert Hoffstetler / Dimitri Mosenkov, a Soviet spy working as a scientist studying the creature under an alias.
  • David Hewlett as Fleming, the laboratory's head of security.
  • Nick Searcy as Frank Hoyt, a United States General who is Strickland's superior.
  • Stewart Arnott as Bernard, Giles' employer and former lover.
  • Nigel Bennett as Mihalkov, Mosenkov's handler.
  • Lauren Lee Smith as Elaine Strickland, Strickland's wife.
  • Martin Roach as Brewster Fuller, Zelda's husband.
  • Allegra Fulton as Yolanda, a cleaning woman at the laboratory.
  • John Kapelos as Mr. Arzoumanian, the owner of the cinema who resided below Elisa and Giles' apartments.
  • Morgan Kelly as Pie Guy, a diner employee to whom Giles is attracted.

ProductionEdit

 
The Gill-man from Creature from the Black Lagoon was an inspiration for del Toro's concept.

The idea for The Shape of Water formed during del Toro's breakfast with Daniel Kraus in 2011, with whom he later co-wrote the novel Trollhunters.[15] It shows similarities to the 2015 short film The Space Between Us.[16] It was also primarily inspired by del Toro's childhood memories of seeing Creature from the Black Lagoon and wanting to see the Gill-man and Kay Lawrence (played by Julie Adams) succeed in their romance.[17] When del Toro was in talks with Universal to direct a remake of Creature from the Black Lagoon, he tried pitching a version focused more on the creature's perspective, where the Creature ended up together with the female lead, but the studio executives rejected the concept.[18]

Del Toro set the film during the 1960s Cold War era to counteract today's heightened tensions, specifying, "if I say once upon a time in 1962, it becomes a fairy tale for troubled times. People can lower their guard a little bit more and listen to the story and listen to the characters and talk about the issues, rather than the circumstances of the issues."[19]

CastingEdit

A fan of her performances in Happy-Go-Lucky and Fingersmith, Del Toro wrote the script with Sally Hawkins in mind for the part and pitched the idea to her while intoxicated at the 2014 Golden Globes.[20] Hawkins prepared for the role by watching films of silent comedians Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd and was told by Del Toro to watch Stan Laurel from Laurel and Hardy, whom Del Toro thought was capable of doing a "state of grace without conveying it verbally".[21]

The part of Giles was originally written with Ian McKellen in mind and Del Toro was inspired to do so by his performance as the real-life closeted gay filmmaker James Whale who directed Frankenstein, The Invisible Man and Bride of Frankenstein, who found himself unemployable in his later years. When McKellen proved unavailable, Del Toro sent an e-mail to Richard Jenkins, who accepted the part.[22]

Michael Shannon was cast as Richard Strickland, the villain of the film. According to an interview with Vanity Fair, Shannon and Del Toro had early conversations about the notion that Strickland would have been the hero of the film if it had been made in the 1950s, something that fascinated the actor.[23] Octavia Spencer, who played the role of Elisa's co-worker, friend and interpreter Zelda found it funny that the people Del Toro used to speak for the mute main character were people who represent very disenfranchised groups.[24]

Principal photographyEdit

Filming began on August 15, 2016, in Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario,[25][26][27][28][29] and wrapped on November 6, 2016.[30] In an interview with IndieWire about the film, del Toro said, "This movie is a healing movie for me. ... For nine movies I rephrased the fears of my childhood, the dreams of my childhood, and this is the first time I speak as an adult, about something that worries me as an adult. I speak about trust, otherness, sex, love, where we're going. These are not concerns that I had when I was nine or seven."[31]

VisualsEdit

According to an interview with The Wrap, Guillermo Del Toro was torn between making the film in color or in black and white, and was at one point leaning toward the latter. Fox Searchlight Pictures offered Del Toro either a $20 million budget to make the film in color or a $17 million budget to shoot it in black and white. "That was honestly a battle I was expecting to lose," Del Toro said to The Wrap. "I was of two minds. On one hand I thought black and white would look luscious, but on the other hand I thought it would look postmodern, like I was being reflective rather than immersed. It's good, because it got me three million more."[32]

SoundtrackEdit

The Shape of Water (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by
Alexandre Desplat
ReleasedDecember 1, 2017
GenreSoundtrack
Length1:16:23
LabelDecca
ProducerDominique Lemonnier

Alexandre Desplat is the composer of the film's score.[33] The score won the Academy Award for Best Original Score at the 90th Academy Awards.[11]

Track listingEdit

All tracks written by Desplat, except where noted.

ReleaseEdit

The Shape of Water premiered on August 31, 2017 at the 74th Venice International Film Festival.[5] It also screened at Telluride Film Festival, the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival and BFI London Film Festival, among others.[1] The film was released in two theaters in New York City on December 1, 2017 and then expanded to several other cities the following week. It had its official wide release in the United States on December 22, 2017.[34]

Home mediaEdit

On March 13, 2018, the film was released on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download.[35]

ReceptionEdit

Box officeEdit

The Shape of Water grossed $63.9 million in the United States and Canada, and $131.4 million in other countries, for a total of $195.2 million.[3]

After grossing $4.6 million over three weeks of limited release, the film began its wide release on December 22, 2017, alongside the openings of Downsizing, Pitch Perfect 3 and Father Figures, and the wide expansion of Darkest Hour, and grossed $3 million from 726 theaters over the weekend, and $4.4 million over the four-day Christmas frame.[36] The following weekend, the film made $3.5 million.[37] The weekend of January 27, 2018, following the announcement of the film's 13 Oscar nominations, the film was added to over 1,000 theaters (for a total of 1,854) and made $5.9 million (an increase of 171% over the previous week's $2.2 million), finishing 8th.[38] The weekend of March 9–11, following its four Oscar wins, the film made $2.4 million. It marked a 64% increase from the previous week's $1.5 million and was similar to the $2.5 million made by the previous year's Best Picture winner, Moonlight.[39]

Critical responseEdit

 
Sally Hawkins' performance was highly praised and earned her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress.

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 92% based on 388 reviews, with an average rating of 8.4/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "The Shape of Water finds Guillermo del Toro at his visually distinctive best—and matched by an emotionally absorbing story brought to life by a stellar Sally Hawkins performance."[40] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 87 out of 100, based on 53 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[41] According to CinemaScore, audience members under the age of 40 gave the film an average grade of either "A+" or "A", while those over 40 gave it an "A" or "A−", on an A+ to F scale;[42] PostTrak reported filmgoers gave the film an overall positive score of 80%.[43]

Ben Croll of IndieWire gave the film an 'A' rating and called it "one of del Toro's most stunningly successful works... also a powerful vision of a creative master feeling totally, joyously free."[44] Writing for Rolling Stone, Peter Travers gave the film 3.5 out of 4 stars, praising Hawkins's performance, the cinematography and del Toro's direction, and saying: "Even as the film plunges into torment and tragedy, the core relationship between these two unlikely lovers holds us in thrall. Del Toro is a world-class film artist. There's no sense trying to analyze how he does it."[45] For the Minnesota Daily, Haley Bennett reacted positively, writing, "The Shape of Water has tenderness uncommon to del Toro films. ... While The Shape of Water isn't groundbreaking, it is elegant and mesmerizing."[19]

Conversely, Rex Reed of the New York Observer gave the film 1 out of 4 stars and calling it "a loopy, lunkheaded load of drivel" and, referring to Hawkins's role in Maudie, described people with disabilities as "defective creatures."[46] Reed's review was criticized for referring to Sally Hawkins' mute character as "mentally handicapped" and for erroneously crediting actor Benicio del Toro as the film's director.[47]

Top-ten listsEdit

The Shape of Water appeared on many critics' year-end top-ten lists,[48] among them:

AccoladesEdit

The Shape of Water received 13 nominations at the 90th Academy Awards, the most of any film in the 2018 race. It won in four categories: Best Production Design, Best Original Score, Best Director, and Best Picture.

The film also spawned some debate about whether the fact that it was filmed in Canada, with a predominantly Canadian crew and many Canadian actors in the supporting roles, should have made it eligible to be nominated for the Canadian Screen Awards. Under Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television rules, to qualify for CSA nominations under the rules for international coproductions at least 15 per cent of a film's funding must come from a Canadian film studio. Even the film's Canadian co-producer, J. Miles Dale, stated that he supports the rules and does not believe the film should have been eligible.[49]

Lawsuit alleging plagiarismEdit

In February 2018, the estate of Paul Zindel initiated a lawsuit in United States District Court for the Central District of California against director Guillermo del Toro and associate producer Daniel Kraus, alleging that The Shape of Water "brazenly copies the story, elements, characters, and themes" of Zindel's 1969 work Let Me Hear You Whisper, which depicts a cleaning lady bonding with a dolphin and attempting to rescue it from a secret research laboratory's nefarious uses.[50] The complaint spends more than a dozen pages detailing alleged "overwhelming similarities" between the works.[51]

Del Toro denied the claim of the Zindel estate, saying that "I have never read nor seen the play. I'd never heard of this play before making The Shape of Water, and none of my collaborators ever mentioned the play." Distributor Fox Searchlight also denied the claim and said that it would "vigorously defend" itself in court.[52]

In July 2018, Judge Percy Anderson dismissed the suit and stated that del Toro and Fox Searchlight were entitled to recover their legal costs.[53]

The Shape of Water was also accused by a French director of copying scenes from the romantic comedy Amelie and the cult classic Delicatessen[54]. Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s black comedy Delicatessen was released in 1991 and quickly became a cult classic, but it was his whimsical take on life and love in the picturesque Paris district of Montmartre, Amelie, that gave him his first global hit.

He claims fellow director Guillermo del Toro was clearly plagiarising one of his scenes in The Shape of Water when he has the characters played by British actor Sally Hawkins and Richard Jenkins perform a two-step dance while sitting on a sofa watching an old Hollywood movie.[55]

There are some very strong similarities in the saturation of the colours, overall art direction and the use of anthropomorphic objects. The music is reminiscent of Yann Tiersen's soundtrack for Amelie.

"When [Guillermo del Toro] steals the scene of the couple sitting on the edge of the bed dancing with their feet, with the musical on telly in the background, it is so cut and pasted from Delicatessen that there’s a moment when I say to myself that he lacks self-respect," said Mr Jeunet.[56] “It is obvious that he had ‘Delicatessen’ in mind,” he said.

“I’m not going to sue him for plagiarism, that’s not my style. But Guillermo has enough talent not to be doing things like that,” he told Ouest-France newspaper[57].

Mr Jeunet said he emailed the Mexican director to ask him why he was stealing his ideas. “He replied.. that he did not steal from others, that it was [American director] Terry Gilliam who influenced all of us,” he said

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit