The Shape of Water– Fairytale Romance | Sunday Observer

The Shape of Water– Fairytale Romance

The 2017 film The Shape of Water is directed by Guillermo del Toro and the screenplay is by Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor. It stars Sally Hawkins as Elisa Esposito, Doug Jones as the Humanoid Amphibian called the ‘Asset’, Michael Shannon as Colonel Richard Strickland, Richard Jenkins as Giles, Octavia Spencer as Zelda, Michael Stuhlbarg as Robert Hoffstetler and Nick Searcy as General Frank Hoyt. The musical score is by Alexandre Desplat.

The film is set in Baltimore during the Cold War between the United States and the former Soviet Union in 1962, and revolves around a fairytale romance between Elisa, an orphaned girl who is abused and mute because her vocal cords were cut off when she was a child, and a humanoid amphibian who is found in the Amazon River and brought to a secret lab in Baltimore for scientific experiments in order to gain advantage in the space race.

The film begins with a voiceover by Giles, a closeted gay man who is Elisa’s friend and neighbour which sets up the theme. “If I spoke about it, if I did what would I tell you, I wonder. Will I tell you about the time, it happened a long time ago it seems in the last days of a fair prince’s reign, what would I tell you about the place - a small city near the coast, very far from everything else, or I don’t know, would I tell you about her, the princess without a voice, or perhaps I would just warn you about the truth of these facts and the tale of love and loss and the monster who tried to destroy it all.”

Elisa leads a monotonous life and is lonely and longs for love. She works the night shift in the lab along with her friend Zelda and meets the humanoid amphibian named the ‘Asset’ while on cleaning duty. Elisa and the Asset form an emotional bond because both of them cannot speak and they communicate through sign language.

Elisa feeds the Asset boiled eggs and plays music records to which he responds and they eventually fall in love.

Colonel Richard Strickland who found the Asset in the Amazon cruelly tortures it and tells General Frank Hoyt that it should be vivisected.

The scientist Robert Hoffstetler who is in fact a Russian spy opposes Strickland’s idea of vivisecting the Asset, and he does not follow orders given by his Russian agents to euthanise the Asset by injection.

The Asset has supernatural powers of healing and is worshipped as a demi god in his area. Strickland ridicules the Asset when he tells Hoyt, “The natives in the Amazon worshipped it as a god... they are primitive, they toss offerings into the water...”

Strickland is a very sadistic man who sexually harasses Eliza in the work place later on in the film. Eliza overhears a conversation between Strickland and Hoyt about vivisecting the Asset, and tries very hard to get Giles to help her release him. Eliza tells Giles about how she feels about the Asset. “What am I? I move my mouth like him. I make no sound like him. What does that make me? All that I am, all that I have ever been brought me here to him. 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.” Giles initially refuses to help Eliza release the Asset but changes his mind later.

In an interview Del Toro said regarding The Shape of Water. “In fairy tales, in fact, there is an entire strand of tales that would be encompassed by the title ‘The Magical Fish.’ And it’s not exactly a secret that a fish is a Christian symbol.” Regarding his view of life del Toro says, “I hate structure. I’m completely anti-structural in terms of believing in institutions. I hate them. I hate any institutionalised social, religious, or economic holding.”

The Shape of Water tells a compelling story of the human need for love and companionship, and Sally Hawkins gives a powerful performance as the mute Elisa who believes it was her fate to meet the humanoid amphibian.