The Shape of Water is a fantasy tale about a mute janitor who falls in love with an imprisoned sea creature.
Directed by Guillermo del Toro, who is known for capturing the hearts of adult audiences in his lauded “Pan’s Labyrinth”, he brings you a fantastical fairy-tale driven by childlike wonder.
A strange beast, half-fish like and half-human like was discovered in the rain forest of the Amazon during the Cold War-era. The creature was later brought to Baltimore in the early 1960s and kept in a tank at a government research lab, where he is subjected to brutal torture in the name of science and national security.
The creature, referred as “The Asset” by his guardians poses no threat to anyone; an innocent being left in the hands of a predatory species, which is us humans.
The nemesis is disguised as Richard Strickland, who is in charge of the government project.
The most important among these characters is Elisa, a member of the laboratory’s nighttime cleaning staff, who plays jazz records for the captive beast, feeds him hard-boiled eggs and before long falls in love with him.
Elisa’s interest in the strange being is stirred less by curiosity than by recognition and so visits the creature in secret. Because of her muteness, she is often looked at by others as “incomplete”. Her two best friends are Zelda, an African-American woman who works with her, and Giles, a gay man who lives next door.
“The Shape of Water” is made of vivid colors and heavy shadows. It is sometimes as bright as a cartoon and murky as a noir film.
Since neither Elisa nor “the Asset” possesses the power of speech, they communicate through gestures and, both can hear, through music.
Elisa, played by Sally Hawkins, gives sound to a silent performance through her body movements and facial features. Weaving through acting and dancing, her physical performance is like poetry.
“The Shape of Water” is an entrancing modern day fairytale, but more than that, a lesson to anyone who has ever felt unworthy of love. Finding beauty in our scars, in what we believe makes us inferior, is what brings us to life; quite literally in Elisa’s case. We all deserve the freedom to be who we are, flaws and all, and be loved for it.