Guillermo del Toro merges the pathos and thrills of the classic monster movie tradition with shadow film noir, then stirring in the heat of a love story like no other to explore the fantasies we all flirt with, the mysteries we can’t control and the monstrosities we must confront.
Del Toro opens his tale deep underwater. From there the entire film becomes an act of breathless submersion, plunging the audience into a 1960s world full of things we recognize – power, anger, intolerance; as well as loneliness, determination and sudden, electrifying connections – and one extraordinary creature we do not. An inexplicable biological “asset” of the U.S. government, a mute cleaning woman, her loving best friends, Soviet spies and an audacious theft all flow into a singular romance that surges beyond all boundaries.
This mystery-shrouded amphibious being has not only been hauled up from the dark, watery depths, but seems to have the fundamental adaptive qualities of water – taking on the psychic contours of every human he encounters, reflecting back both aggression and fathomless love.
Within del Toro’s storytelling, the themes of good and evil, innocence and menace, the historical and the eternal, beauty and monstrosity weave in and out of each other, revealing that no darkness can ever fully defeat the light.
Summarizes del Toro:
“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.”
For del Toro, the passion for simultaneously haunting and enchanting audiences goes back a long way. A native of Guadalajara, Mexico, he nourished himself as a boy on the infinite mysteries of ghost stories, monster movies and fables that ignited his own wildly inventive interior fantasy life. When he started writing and directing films, all those influences twined into a viscerally expressive visual style all his own, one that seemed to tap directly into the human psyche.
Del Toro weaves in the dizzying landscape of falling in love, as a lonely woman with a traumatic past discovers a love so overpowering it defies suspicion, fear and biology.
Del Toro also assembled an extraordinary collection of actors for the film. The talented ensemble includes Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg and Octavia Spencer.
Water takes the shape of whatever is holding it at the time and although water can be so gentle, it’s also the most powerful and malleable force in the universe. That’s also love, isn’t it? It doesn’t matter what shape we put love into, it becomes that, whether it’s man, woman or creature.”
–Guillermo del Toro
See The Shape of Water, in theaters December 8th.