The Shape Of Water

The Shape of Water, Guillermo Del Toro and Vanessa Taylor’s newest film, mostly flew under the radar until the 2018 Oscar nominations. In my opinion, there is no doubt it won so many awards: it is, at its core, what I consider to be an “artistic” film worthy of such an award.

The general premise? A lady, who happens to be mute, falls in love with a fish. Actually, it is more of a human-like amphibious creature, but the description still holds. In the early part of the story, with the help of several people in her life, the lady steals the creature and saves it (him?) from the high-security government laboratory where she works as a custodian.

Let me emphasize that this is by no means a bad film! There is a reason why it won so many Oscars; however, there are certain aspects that made it seem overly “artistic”. For this, let me run through a few ideas: – The film is set in a Cold War era United States.

– The woman, Elisa, is mute. Other than a couple of cases, she does not make any sound.
– The amphibious creature is not human. Thus, it cannot speak, and struggles to communicate with anyone other than Elisa, who is mute.
– She enlists the help of her closeted friend, Giles, as well as her black friend, Zelda, to save this creature. Both of them are often discriminated against, where they are essentially treated as less-than-human.
– The American and Soviet governments want to kill the creature for their own, respective purposes, as it is not human.
– They escape together, and they make sweet, intimate love.

As such, it is not hard to raise the obvious point that the majority of the plot is immediately discernible from the first few minutes of the film, as the imagery it employs is painfully obvious. They beat you over the head several times with the fact that Elisa is relatively mute and that they are treated as less than human.

In the end, a voiceover narration explains exactly what The Shape of Water is referring to, and the film ends. Thus, while very well done, it is extremely stylized, almost preachy. It is also, for that matter, extremely predictable. The overall movie feels like artsy nonsense at times. As such, while it is highly enjoyable and something I would recommend that you watch at some point in time, the way the film was executed led me to describe it as “artistic”. The over-the-top acting alongside the overly predictable plot led it to have this certain feel to it that, more often than not, had me rolling my eyes at the absurdity.

For better or for worse, this film is nothing short of absurd.

Maxim Vitale

Originally published in Bandersnatch Vol. 47 Issue 10 on March 14, 2018