The Shape of Water

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The Shape of Water
The Shape of Water (film).png
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story byGuillermo del Toro
Starring
Music by Alexandre Desplat
Cinematography Dan Laustsen
Edited by Sidney Wolinsky
Production
companies
Distributed by Fox 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
  • Russian
Budget$20 million [2]
Box office$195.2 million [3]

The Shape of Water is a 2017 American romantic dark fantasy 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 cleaner 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.

Romance film Film genre

Romance films or romance movies are romantic love stories recorded in visual media for broadcast in theaters and on TV that focus on passion, emotion, and the affectionate romantic involvement of the main characters and the journey that their love takes them through dating, courtship or marriage. Romance films make the romantic love story or the search for strong and pure love and romance the main plot focus. Occasionally, romance lovers face obstacles such as finances, physical illness, various forms of discrimination, psychological restraints or family that threaten to break their union of love. As in all quite strong, deep, and close romantic relationships, tensions of day-to-day life, temptations, and differences in compatibility enter into the plots of romantic films.

Dark fantasy subgenre of fantasy literary, artistic, and cinematic works that incorporate darker and frightening themes of fantasy

Dark fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy literary, artistic, and cinematic works that incorporate darker and frightening themes of fantasy. It also often combines fantasy with elements of horror or has a gloomy, darker tone, or a sense of horror and dread.

Guillermo del Toro Mexican film director

Guillermo del Toro Gómez is a Mexican filmmaker, author, actor, and former special effects makeup artist. He is best known for the Academy Award-winning fantasy films Pan's Labyrinth (2006) and The Shape of Water (2017), winning the Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture for the latter.

Contents

The Shape of Water was screened as part of the main competition in 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.

74th Venice International Film Festival Film festival

The 74th annual Venice International Film Festival was held from 30 August to 9 September 2017. The jury president was announced as the actress Annette Bening on 5 July 2017. Downsizing, directed by Alexander Payne, was selected to open the festival. The Golden Lion, the highest prize given by the festival, was awarded to The Shape of Water, directed by Guillermo del Toro.

Golden Lion The highest prize given to a film at the Venice Film Festival

The Golden Lion is the highest prize given to a film at the Venice Film Festival. The prize was introduced in 1949 by the organizing committee and is now regarded as one of the film industry's most prestigious and distinguished prizes. In 1970, a second Golden Lion was introduced; this is an honorary award for people who have made an important contribution to cinema.

2017 Toronto International Film Festival Film festival

The 42nd annual Toronto International Film Festival was held from 7 to 17 September 2017. There were fourteen programmes, with the Vanguard and City to City programmes both being retired from previous years, with the total number of films down by 20% from the 2016 edition. Borg/McEnroe directed by Janus Metz Pedersen opened the festival.

The Shape of Water received critical acclaim with praise for the acting, screenplay, direction, visuals, production design, and musical score, with many 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 at the 23rd Critics' Choice Awards, winning four awards. A novelization by del Toro and Daniel Kraus was published on March 6, 2018. [14]

<i>Pans Labyrinth</i> 2006 fantasy war drama on the early years of the Spanish-Franco dictatorship directed by Guillermo del Toro

Pan's Labyrinth is a 2006 Mexican-Spanish dark fantasy drama film written and directed by Guillermo del Toro and starring Ivana Baquero, Sergi López, Maribel Verdú, Doug Jones, and Ariadna Gil.

American Film Institute Nonprofit educational arts organization devoted to film

The American Film Institute (AFI) is an American film organization that educates filmmakers and honors the heritage of the motion picture arts in the United States. AFI is supported by private funding and public membership fees.

The American Film Institute (AFI) Awards 2017 honored the Top 10 Films and Top 10 Television Programs of the year.

Plot

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 works as a cleaner at a secret government laboratory in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1962, at the height of the Cold War. Her only friends are her closeted next-door neighbor Giles, a middle-aged struggling advertising illustrator, and her co-worker Zelda Fuller.

Muteness or mutism is an inability to speak, often caused by a speech disorder or surgery. Someone who is mute may be so due to the unwillingness to speak in certain social situations.

Sign language Language which uses manual communication and body language to convey meaning

Sign languages are languages that use the visual-manual modality to convey meaning. Sign languages are expressed through manual articulations in combination with non-manual elements. Sign languages are full-fledged natural languages with their own grammar and lexicon. Sign languages are not universal and they are not mutually intelligible with each other, although there are also striking similarities among sign languages.

Cold War Geopolitical tension after World War II between the Eastern and Western Bloc

The Cold War was a period of geopolitical tension between the Soviet Union with its satellite states, and the United States with its allies after World War II. The historiography of the conflict began between 1946 and 1947. The Cold War began to de-escalate after the Revolutions of 1989. The collapse of the USSR in 1991 was the end of the Cold War. The term "cold" is used because there was no large-scale fighting directly between the two sides, but they each supported major regional conflicts known as proxy wars. The conflict split the temporary wartime alliance against Nazi Germany and its allies, leaving the USSR and the US as two superpowers with profound economic and political differences.

The facility receives a mysterious creature captured from a South American 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 for an American advantage in the space race, General Frank Hoyt is eventually persuaded by Strickland to vivisect it. One scientist, Robert Hoffstetler — 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 liberate him. Hoffstetler stumbles upon Elisa's plot in progress and chooses to assist her. Though initially reluctant, Zelda also becomes involved in the successful escape.

Space Race Competition between the USSR and the USA to explore space

The Space Race was a 20th-century competition between two Cold War rivals, the Soviet Union (USSR) and the United States (US), to achieve firsts in spaceflight capability. It had its origins in the ballistic missile-based nuclear arms race between the two nations that occurred following World War II. The technological advantage required to rapidly achieve spaceflight milestones was seen as necessary for national security, and mixed with the symbolism and ideology of the time. The Space Race led to pioneering efforts to launch artificial satellites, uncrewed space probes of the Moon, Venus, and Mars, and human spaceflight in low Earth orbit and to the Moon.

Vivisection dissection of a living subject

Vivisection, also known as V-section, is surgery conducted for experimental purposes on a living organism, typically animals with a central nervous system, to view living internal structure. The word is, more broadly, used as a pejorative catch-all term for experimentation on live animals by organizations opposed to animal experimentation, but the term is rarely used by practising scientists. Human vivisection, such as live organ harvesting, has been perpetrated as a form of torture. However, as vivisection etymologically means a surgery on a living being, all forms of open surgery on living people are literally human vivisection.

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a federal sovereign state in northern Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centers were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Tashkent, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometers (6,200 mi) east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometers (4,500 mi) north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

Elisa keeps the Amphibian Man in her bathtub, planning 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 refusing, Elisa has sex with the Amphibian Man in her shower.

General Hoyt unexpectedly arrives and tells Strickland 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 to deteriorate. Hoffstetler goes to meet his handlers with Strickland tailing him. At the rendezvous Hoffstetler is shot by a handler, but Strickland kills the handler. Having learned Hoffstetler is a spy, Strickland tortures him into implicating Elisa and Zelda before he dies. Strickland threatens Zelda in her home until her husband Brewster reveals that Elisa has the Amphibian Man. Zelda immediately telephones Elisa, warning her to release the creature. An enraged Strickland ransacks Elisa's empty apartment until he finds a calendar note revealing where she plans to release the Amphibian Man.

Extraction (military)

In military tactics, extraction, is the process of removing personnel when it is considered imperative that they be immediately relocated out of a hostile environment and taken to a secure area.

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.

Cast

Production

Development

The Gill-man from Creature from the Black Lagoon was an inspiration for del Toro's concept. Still from the Creature from the Black Lagoon (15666911261).jpg
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]

Casting

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 he was 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 Stan Laurel from Laurel and Hardy, the last of whom she was told by Del Toro to watch because he thought Laurel could "do 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]

Filming

Elgin Theatre, Toronto, the Orpheum cinema of the film. Elgin Theatre interior.jpg
Elgin Theatre, Toronto, the Orpheum cinema of the film.

Principal photography began on August 15, 2016, in Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario, [25] [26] [27] [28] [29] and wrapped on November 6, 2016. [30] The interior of the Orpheum (the movie theater seen in the film), is that of the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres, in Toronto, while the exterior of the building is the façade of the Victorian Massey Hall, a performing arts theatre not far from the other one. Elisa and Giles's old flats, which in the film are just above the Orpheum, were actually a set built at Cinespace Studios, west Toronto. [31]

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." [32]

Visuals

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." [33]

Soundtrack

The Shape of Water (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by
Alexandre Desplat
ReleasedDecember 1, 2017
Genre Soundtrack
Length1:16:23
Label Decca
Producer Dominique Lemonnier

Alexandre Desplat is the composer of the film's score. [34] The score won the Academy Award for Best Original Score at the 90th Academy Awards. [11]

Track listing

All tracks written by Desplat, except where noted.

Release

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. [35]

Home media

On March 13, 2018, the film was released on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download. [36]

Reception

Box office

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 a three week 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. [37] The following weekend, the film made $3.5 million. [38] 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. [39] 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 . [40]

Critical response

Sally Hawkins' performance was highly praised and earned her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress. MJK35133 Sally Hawkins (Maudie, Berlinale 2017).jpg
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 413 reviews, with an average rating of 8.41/10. 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." [41] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 87 out of 100, based on 53 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". [42] 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; [43] PostTrak reported filmgoers gave the film an overall positive score of 80%. [44]

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." [45] 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." [46] 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." [47] Reed's review was criticized and ridiculed for referring to Sally Hawkins' mute character as "mentally handicapped" and for erroneously crediting actor Benicio del Toro as the film's director. [48]

Top-ten lists

The Shape of Water appeared on many critics' year-end top-ten lists, [49] among them:

Accolades

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. It was the second fantasy film to win Best Picture since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King .[ citation needed ]

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. [50]

Plagiarism accusations

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. [51] The complaint spends more than a dozen pages detailing alleged "overwhelming similarities" between the works. [52] 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. [53] In July 2018, Judge Percy Anderson dismissed the suit and stated that del Toro and Fox Searchlight were entitled to recover their legal costs. [54]

There have also been accusations that The Shape of Water plagiarised Amphibian Man , a 1962 Soviet film based on a 1928 Soviet novel of the same name. [55] [56] [57] [58] Indie Cinema Magazine noted that both have a similar plot, the use of the name "Amphibian Man" in both films, the Soviet connection in both stories, and the 1962 setting. [55] Amphibian Man was one of the highest-grossing Soviet films of all time, with to 100 million box office admissions in the Soviet Union. [59]

The film also received accusations of plagiarism by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the French director of the romantic comedy Amélie and the cult classic Delicatessen , [60] whom he claimed that del Toro plagiarized some of the scenes within his works in Amelie, Delicatessen, and The City of Lost Children . [61] Other observers vehemently disagree [62] with Jeunet’s assertion. Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor’s well known, 1960s chair dance, [63] for example, preceded Jeunet’s films by decades. As for the former, Jeunet pointed out some of the similarities in the saturation of the colours, overall art direction and the use of anthropomorphic objects as well the music which is a reminiscent of Yann Tiersen's soundtrack on the former. Responding to Jeunet's accusations of plagiarism by email, del Toro cited on the influences of Terry Gilliam's works as the inspiration for The Shape of Water. [61] Both composer Alexandre Desplat and del Toro have cited the late French composer Georges Delerue, [64] whose work predates Tierson's by decades as the inspiration for the musical score. Desplat has also emphasized the importance of water as essential to both the score and to the themes of the movie itself. [65]

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