The Shape of Water
|The Shape of Water|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Guillermo del Toro|
|Story by||Guillermo del Toro|
|Music by||Alexandre Desplat|
|Edited by||Sidney Wolinsky|
|Distributed by||Fox Searchlight Pictures|
|Box office||$195.2 million|
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. 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 of 2016.
The film was screened in the main competition section of the 74th Venice International Film Festival, where it premiered on August 31, 2017, and was awarded the Golden Lion for best film. It was also screened at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. It began a limited release in two theaters in New York City on December 1, 2017, before expanding on December 8, 2017, and grossed $195 million worldwide.
The Shape of Water received critical acclaim for its performances, screenplay, direction, visuals, production design, and musical score, with many critics calling it del Toro's best work since the film Pan's Labyrinth; the American Film Institute selected it as one of the top 10 films of the year. 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. It was nominated for seven awards at the 75th Golden Globe Awards, winning for Best Director and Best Original Score, and 12 at the 71st British Academy Film Awards, winning three awards, including Best Director. A novelization by del Toro and Daniel Kraus was published on March 6, 2018.
Elisa Esposito, 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, a struggling advertising illustrator who shares a strong bond with her, and her African-American co-worker Zelda, a woman who also serves as her interpreter at work.
The facility receives a mysterious creature captured from the Amazon River by Colonel Richard Strickland, who is in charge of the project to study it. Curious about the creature, Elisa discovers it is a humanoid amphibian. She begins visiting him in secret, and the two form a close bond.
Seeking to exploit the Amphibian Man to American advantage in the "space race", General Frank Hoyt orders Strickland to vivisect it. One scientist, Robert Hoffstetler—who is in truth 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 learns of the Americans' plans for the Amphibian Man, she persuades Giles to help her free him. Mosenkov discovers Elisa's plot and chooses to help her. Though initially reluctant, Zelda becomes involved in the escape, and it is successful.
Elisa keeps the Amphibian Man in her bathtub, adding salt to the water to keep him alive. She plans to release the creature into a nearby canal when it will be opened to the ocean in several days' time. As part of his efforts to recover the Amphibian Man, Strickland interrogates Elisa and Zelda, but the failure of his advances toward Elisa hampers his judgment, and he dismisses them. 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. The Amphibian Man gets as far as the cinema downstairs 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. Elisa and the Amphibian Man soon become romantically involved, having sex in her bathroom, which she at one point fills completely with water.
Hoyt gives Strickland an ultimatum, asking him to recover the Amphibian Man within 36 hours. Meanwhile, Mosenkov is told by his handlers that he will be extracted in two days. As the planned release date approaches, the Amphibian Man's health starts deteriorating. Mosenkov leaves to rendezvous with his handlers, with Strickland tailing him. At the rendezvous, Mosenkov is shot by one of his handlers, but Strickland shoots the handlers dead and then tortures Mosenkov for information. Mosenkov implicates Elisa and Zelda before dying from his wounds. Strickland then threatens Zelda in her home, causing her terrified husband to reveal that Elisa had been keeping the Amphibian Man. Strickland searches Elisa's apartment and finds a calendar note revealing when and where she plans to release the Amphibian Man.
At the canal, Elisa and Giles bid farewell to the creature, but Strickland arrives and attacks them all. Strickland knocks Giles down and shoots the Amphibian Man and Elisa, who both appear to die. However, the Amphibian Man 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, deep underwater, he heals her. When he applies his healing touch to the scars on her neck, they open to reveal gills like his. Elisa's final tie to the surface world is thus severed, and the two embrace. In a closing voice-over narration, Giles conveys his belief that Elisa lived "happily ever after" with the Amphibian Man.
- Sally Hawkins as Elisa Esposito, a mute cleaner who works at a secret government laboratory.
- Doug Jones as "Amphibian Man", an amphibious creature referred to as the "asset", with whom Elisa forms a close bond.
- Michael Shannon as Richard Strickland, a United States Colonel in charge of the project to study the "asset".
- Richard Jenkins as Giles, Elisa's 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.
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. It shows similarities to the 2015 short film The Space Between Us. 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. 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.
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."
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. 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".
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.
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 50's, something that fascinated the actor. Octavia Spencer, who played the role of Elisa's co-worker, friend and interpreter Zelda found it funny that Del Toro that the people he used to speak for the mute main characters were people who represent very disfranchised groups."
One of Del Toro's most frequent collaborators, Doug Jones spent three hours putting on the costume for the amphibious creature which was built by four people with K-4 Jelly from his cast of his six-foot-three, 140-pound frame. Jones, who could barely see or hear in the costume, was required at various times to hang from a hip harness, stand on a smoke-bathed teeter-totter to simulate bobbing in water, and employ scuba diving techniques while acting in a flooded, eight-foot-deep tank.
Filming began on August 15, 2016, in Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario, and wrapped on November 6, 2016. 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."
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 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."
Cinematographer Dan Laustsen worked closely with production designer Paul Austerberry and costume designer Luis Sequeira during eight weeks of pre-production to create the visuals Del Toro wanted for the film. Using a mix of gels, LED lights and a diffuser filter inside of an Arri Alexa XT, Laustsen explained: "We tried to light it like it was an old 1950s movie. The stars had to look amazing, Hawkins had to look like a princess and the bad guys had to look rough and tough." To light Elisa's apartment, Laustsen used blue-green and steel-blue lights while Giles' was lit with golden lights.
In order to keep the amphibious creature a mystery, Laustsen lit Doug Jones carefully. "Because the costume was designed so well, we didn’t need to do much except play around with the shadows,” he says. “Initially, we tried to create the purple glow that emanates when the fish is falling in love with built-in UV light. That didn’t work out, so we added that later with CGI."
To create the fluid motion of water on film, he used a Steadicam for an underwater version of Elisa’s apartment while he used a Technocrane for the fantasy song-and-dance sequence. In the more complicated "dry for wet" scenes, where there is only the appearance of water, Laustsen used a barrage of smoke machines and projectors that acted as key lights. When the moving light bounced off the smoke, it created a sense of movement, feeling as if the characters were submerged in water. This technique was used with smaller projectors in the opening scene where Elisa is seen floating, and the closing scene with two 20K projectors where Elisa and the creature jump into the water. Laustsen shot at high speed, so the movement appears slower. CGI was later applied to change the way hair and clothing moved.
Laustsen opted for"‘wet for wet" when it came to filming a scene with Hawkins and the creature in a bathroom filled to the ceiling with water, using an Alexa Mini within a constructed tank. The same bathroom as on the "dry" set was dropped into the tank, where Elisa and the creature would stand while a camera operator filmed them underwater. "We knew we wanted to do this from the start," says Laustsen, "so during pre-production we had to make sure everything in the bathroom, such as waterproof track lighting, would also work within the tank." Even the angle of the window, which was the source of the key light, had to be considered to ensure it could work in both spaces.
|The Shape of Water (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)|
|Soundtrack album by Alexandre Desplat|
|Released||December 1, 2017|
All tracks written by Desplat, except where noted.
|1.||"The Shape of Water"||3:42|
|2.||"You'll Never Know" (feat. Renée Fleming)||4:38|
|7.||"Elisa and Zelda"||1:10|
|8.||"Five Stars General"||1:31|
|9.||"The Silence of Love"||1:35|
|11.||"That Isn't Good"||1:43|
|16.||"He's Coming For You"||1:39|
|17.||"Overflow of Love"||2:56|
|20.||"A Princess Without a Voice"||1:50|
|21.||"La Javanaise" (Madeleine Peyroux)||4:10|
|22.||"I Know Why (And So Do You)" (Glenn Miller and His Orchestra)||2:58|
|23.||"Chica Chica Boom Chic" (Carmen Miranda)||2:19|
|24.||"Babalú" (Caterina Valente & Silvio Francesco)||2:51|
|25.||"A Summer Place" (Andy Williams)||2:34|
|26.||"You'll Never Know" (feat. Renée Fleming [Alternative Version])||6:49|
The Shape of Water premiered on August 31, 2017 at the 74th Venice International Film Festival. It also screened at Telluride Film Festival, the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival and BFI London Film Festival, among others. The film was released in two theaters in New York City on December 1, 2017 and then expended to several other cities the following week. It had its official wide release in the United States on December 22, 2017.
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.
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. The following weekend, the film made $3.5 million. 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. 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.
On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 92% based on 348 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." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 87 out of 100, based on 53 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". 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; PostTrak reported filmgoers gave the film an overall positive score of 80%.
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." 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." 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."
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." 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.
The Shape of Water appeared on many critics' year-end top-ten lists, among them:
- 1st — Anne Thompson, IndieWire
- 1st — Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times
- 1st — Sasha Stone, Awards Daily
- 1st — Drew McWeeny, The Tracking Board
- 1st — Nicholas Barber, BBC
- 1st — Mike Scott, The Times-Picayune
- 1st — James Verniere, Boston Herald
- 1st — Borys Kit, The Hollywood Reporter
- 1st — Marjorie Baumgarten & Steve Davis, The Austin Chronicle
- 1st — Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal
- 2nd — David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter
- 2nd — Mark Olsen, Los Angeles Times
- 3rd — Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter
- 3rd — Matthew Jacobs, HuffPost
- 3rd — E. Oliver Whitney, ScreenCrush
- 3rd — Alonso Duralde, TheWrap
- 4th — Pete Hammond, Deadline Hollywood
- 4th — Brian Tallerico, RogerEbert.com
- 4th — Chris Bumbray, JoBlo.com
- 5th — Marc Savlov, The Austin Chronicle
- 5th — James Berardinelli, Reelviews
- 5th — Christopher Orr, The Atlantic
- 5th — Gregory Ellwood, IndieWire
- 5th — Peter Hartlaub, San Francisco Chronicle
- 6th — Kimber Myers, IndieWire
- 6th — People
- 7th — The Guardian
- 7th — Peter Debruge, Variety
- 7th — Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
- 8th — Peter Howell, Toronto Star
- 9th — Steve Erickson, RogerEbert.com
- 9th — Stephen Whitty, The Star-Ledger
- 9th — Ryan Oliver, IndieWire
- 10th — Danny Bowes, RogerEbert.com
- 10th — Paste
- Top 10 (listed alphabetically, not ranked) — IGN
- Top 10 (listed alphabetically, not ranked) — Ty Burr, The Boston Globe
- Top 10 (listed alphabetically, not ranked) — Moira Macdonald, The Seattle Times
- Top 10 (listed alphabetically, not ranked) — Walter Addiego, San Francisco Chronicle
- Top 10 (listed alphabetically, not ranked) — Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
- Best of 2017 (listed alphabetically, not ranked) — Newsweek
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.
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. The complaint spends more than a dozen pages detailing alleged "overwhelming similarities" between the works.
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.
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