The Shape of Water is set in the 1960s during the Cold War in an experimental centre where the main female character Elisa (Sally Hawkins) works. One day, a strange and cruel man arrives in the centre and he brings something incredible: a monster from the deep waters of the South. The story of this merman and woman also includes Sally Hawkins notes on a love story and a mermaid.
In fact, he plot revolves around the encounter between Elisa and the merman, and the love story that develops from that point on. Many things in Elisa’s life remind the viewer of water: her scars on her neck – very fish-like; the colour pattern for her flat, that goes from cyan to light blue; even her sexuality, which she takes care of in the water of her bathtub, and even the colour through which the merman communicates feelings. Blueish colours are not the only present: red is the colour of love, and it begins to appear when Elisa falls in love with the creature.
Guillermo’s idea of fantasy and fable is not to tell a nice, romantic story, but to place the present political situation in another context, so he can explain it better, or even say things that would’ve been hushed. “Fantasy is a very political genre” are the words Guillermo uses to introduce his films, especially this one, where it’s actually very explicit on the real political situation he wants to represent: nowadays, the Trump political situation. For this reason, the monster, which doesn’t have a name, is central: he is something different for each of the characters; he is a divine entity that makes everything go in right direction.
Music, and also cinema, has a great share in this film. The composer Alexander Desplat has been chosen by Del Toro because he wanted something emotional, full of feelings and sensation. Even the music and the sounds from the films playing in the background are part of the soundtrack and part of the things that unite Elisa to the creature.
Guillermo is famous for his political fables, for his eccentric style, and for this reason he is very appreciated, but I must say that with The Shape of Water he created a perfect work of art.
All photographs by Alessio Costantino