Finally, The Shape of Water is out! I was so hyped for this movie, that I put it on my favourites list of 2017 unseen. Did it live up to my expectations?
As in any Del Toro movie, color is an important element. The colors of this movie are blue and green, and the opening vibe has something French and fluid. No doubt about it: this will be about water. It is set against the crisis phase of the cold war in the early sixties and it balances the closedness, paranoia and pressure of that time with a fairy tale-like story in a stylized decor. But, it is a fairy tale for adults and this is in stark contrast to for example Pan’s Labyrinth. Nothing is seen from the eyes of a child. There are no miracles, no secrets, no panoramic views of nature, no endless possibilities. It is smaller in scope and it is mostly indoors. There are only little lives. Like the one of Elisa, a mute cleaning lady at a research facility, her days filled with work, routine and spending time with her two friends: colleague Zelda and neighbour Giles.
There is music in her life, and some stolen moments with tap dance. (A trend; La La Land was a musical, but the tendency to combine music, choreographed dance and romance was also seen in Baby Driver, with the dancing cars and mix tapes, and here again. A shared desire for more romance?)
The Russians and the Americans are in a race to find out more about a sea creature that can breathe on land and in water. Elisa connects with the creature. She brings him hard-boiled eggs as a gift. She teaches him the sign word for egg. She lets him listen to the music she loves and she dances in front of him, free and laughing.
Elisa’s evil boss Richard wants the creature dead, open it up, dissect it, and find its secrets that way. Richard, with his camera’s to watch the employees, with the new car, his book about the Power of Positive Thinking, he’s perfectly awful.
Elisa plans to save the creature. ‘When he looks at me, the way he looks at me… He does not know, what I lack… Or – how – I am incomplete. He sees me, for what I – am, as I am. He’s happy – to see me. Every time. Every day. Now, I can either save him… or let him die.’
Normally I don’t really like romance, but everything works in The Shape of Water. The little gifts, the gestures, the dancing, the songs. It even manages to make sex romantic. It is not a prude movie: it shows strictly timed morning masturbation, a suburban sex scene where the wife is asked to keep silent during the act, and loving sex with a sea monster. The face of Elisa, after Giles opens the door and catches them after the act, is so happy, so confident and a little naughty.
It lived up to my expectations, it is sweet, funny and beautifully styled. This is a fairy tale for adults where love plays the role of bringing magic to life. And it ends like a fantasy fairy tale should.