The Shape of Water has its first good reviews – Venice Film Festival

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The Shape of Water, the recent film by Guillermo del Toro, participates in the Official Selection at the 74th Venice International Film Festival where it has harvested its first good reviews.


“Splendid, beautiful, romantic fable and meticulously crafted gem”, are some of the first comments in the international media.

The feature film is, actually, a mix of film genres: it has a little bit of noir cinema and the wealth of musicals, turning around what is a monster movie by exploring primal emotions like fear, desolation, danger, wonder, curiosity and wish.

The Shape of Water brings us into a secret laboratory in full effervescence of Cold War where a lonely Elisa works, whom her life changes forever when discovers, together to her friend Zelda, a secret classified experiment. “I like to make movies that are liberating, that say it’s okay to be whoever you are, and it seems that at this time, this is very pertinent”, explains Guillermo del Toro, who worked this fantasy production with two of the most charismatic actresses of the moment; Octavia Spencer and Sally Hawkins. The cast is completed by Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones and Michael Stuhlbarg.

About the intention of this story, director says: “I wanted to create a beautiful, elegant story about hope and redemption as an antidote to the cynicism of our times. I wanted this story to take the form of a fairytale in that you have a humble human being who stumbles into something grander and more transcendental than anything else in her life”. To this element, which an ordinary individual lives an extraordinary situations, it is added war tensions that are also valid these days. “… I thought it would be a great idea to juxtapose that love against something as banal and evil as the hatred between nations, which is the Cold War, and the hatred between people due to race, color, ability and gender”.

To settle this film in 60s has a particular reasons for Mexican director. “What interested me is that 1962 is a time when everybody was focused on the future, while the creature is an ancient form of the deep past. People are obsessed with what’s new, with ad jingles, the moon, modern clothes, TV. And in the meantime here’s this ancient force, a creature in love, who comes among them”.

In the middle of that tension in the atmosphere, mixed with the illusions and the interest in the future, this feature film is a love story between two quite different species. The creature, a mix among human, animal and myth is played Doug Jones, who has already worked with Del Toro in “Pan’s Labyrinth” as the Pale Man and Faun and as Abe Sapien in “Hellboy”. Actor describes this new character: “He’s very, very alone because he’s the last of his species,” and continues: “He’s also never been outside his river so he doesn’t understand where he is or why. He’s being tested and biopsied all because the government thinks, ‘we’re going to use this thing to our advantage somehow”.

Feelings and emotions are communication language with Elisa, who is a mute person. “Their communication is by necessity beyond words, entirely based on vision and feeling”. Both characters are out of their element in the larger world but when they’re together that disappears”. Building that relationship with a lack of words was a really challenge for both actors, so they had to build and connect themselves with many rehearsals one month before the filming started.

Creature, something different to other ones seen before on Del Toro’s films, took to production 9 months of creation. It is a mix of prosthetic costume that was meticulously designed, and all the expressiveness gotten by the great Doug, for that reason he has played different creatures with Del Toro for 20 years. The idea was create a millennial and luminous creature from the depths of the sea, to create an aquatic life form. The design staff included, among others, designer and visual effects supervisor Shane Mahan (Iron Man) and the sculptor Mike Hill (The Werewolf), who made many models.

First Reactions

“It offers what must be cinema’s uneasiest probing of the postwar American psyche since Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master – and is unquestionably del Toro’s best, richest film since his 2006 Spanish-language masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth. Crucially, it’s also one that he and he alone could have dreamt up”. – Robbie Collins, The Telegraph.

“While the remarkable Hawkins carries every scene with her tender emotional transparency and joyously unabashed desire, the superb work from Jenkins, Stuhlbarg, Shannon and the wryly amusing Spencer — along with the vital roles their characters play in the unfolding action — makes this a robustly populated story. And the work of Jones cannot be over-praised in portraying the creature as a sentient being with a soulful inner life, driven by a yearning no less persuasive than that of Elisa”. – David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter.

“It’s a film with the grace and formal ambition of one of those Vincente Minnelli musicals in which the camera never stops moving. This is a monster movie but it plays like a Beauty and the Beast-style romance”. – Geoffrey Macnab, Independent.

The Shape of Water will be on US theaters next December 8, 2017, while in UK will appear in February, 2018.

Pressbook and Images Credit: Biennale press.

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