Both a fairy tale for adults, a declaration of love for the cinema and a political fable, Guillermo del Toro’s latest film is unanimous.
France 2 will broadcast the Oscar for best film 2018 this Sunday. First recommend it to you. Here is our review.
By locating The shape of water in the early 1960s, Guillermo del Toro sought much more to bridge the present than to exploit a suitable context to celebrate one of his bedside films (The strange creature of the black lake is one of his earliest memories of cinema). The era in question, which precedes the Kennedy assassination and the intervention in Vietnam, is associated with an ideal America, the very one that Trump has promised to restore to greatness. But del Toro clearly shows that this fantasized nation only benefited a minority, and that the notion of equality was only a declaration of principle. The heroes of his film represent the hidden face: a lonely girl, employed in cleaning at a secret government base, her friend and colleague, and her neighbor illustrator. Each in their own way, they are endowed with a peculiarity that makes them second-class citizens: one is silent, another black, the third homo. They are the great left-behind of this period, which ignored them in reality as in fiction. With infinite tenderness, del Toro gives them back their voice and places them in the light.
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Reversal of values
This revenge of the voiceless is expressed in the most poetic way in the main protagonist, magnificently embodied by Sally Hawkins. When she discovers the “trump card”, the fish man captured by the CIA, and coveted by the Russians (we are at the height of the Cold War), she is moved to note that he shares with her the same inability to express themselves verbally. It is therefore quite naturally that a mutual attraction will lead them to communicate as best they can: by gesture and by music. From there until their interaction turns into a dance, there is a step that the filmmaker will take without hesitation on the occasion of a dream musical sequence. In the course of a winding and unpredictable plot, the characters end up uniting to hijack the “trump” and protect it from the authorities. The film then operates a spectacular reversal of values, as there was in Richard Matheson’s short story. I’m a legend. Here, the real monster is revealed to be the conventional hero figure, a dominant square-jawed male portrayed by Michael Shannon with the appropriate insanity and aggressiveness.
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As for the “asset”, it is all we want to see in it, but del Toro, who claims cinema and Christianity as his two major mythological influences, did not even try to hide what it represents. this creature half man half god whose appearance of fish induces a fairly obvious symbolic meaning. He has all the attributes of the redeeming messiah who suffers and saves out of love, not to mention the miracles he performs. As for the title water, it confirms the supernatural hypothesis as a metaphorical link between the material and the divine. She protects the good guys and punishes the bad guys. It is also the element in which love is consumed. Finally, in its baptismal form, it is a promise of new life. For those who have followed the filmmaker since his beginnings, The shape of water is a formal as well as a thematic summit. But the film goes well beyond the limits of the fantastic genre, and we understand that the Venice Film Festival has granted it its highest award for its way of celebrating cinema in its most varied forms, from silent to musicals, including music. series B and the black thriller. As for his good intentions (del Toro affirms loud and clear his faith in love), there is nothing candid about them and their power of conviction is irresistible. Sometimes a solid dose of good vibes doesn’t hurt.
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