“Monsters are the patron saints of imperfection.”
Guillermo del Toro
The Shape of Water: My Review
When Disney/Pixar released the animated film WALL-E it contained few spoken words. The noises made by the little robot delivered the message with childlike whirrs and purrs and ohs and ahs and ows. The voice actor did a fantastic job and we viewers could relate to this little character.
I believe that when this style is used that we viewers fill in the blanks much greater than we would if we had been given words. This is very powerful. Maybe it is in our Parenting DNA that instantly relates to these childlike sounds? In any case, we are doing the work for the film maker by adding our own emotions or connections to the characters.
This is reason that we love watching Godzilla and King Kong movies, the human actors articulation of the monster’s feelings allow us to fill in the blanks and give that monster more emotional depth than is on the screen. Clever movie makers today are pushing out works like Minions, the funny little creatures from Despicable Me.
The Shape of Water has the two main characters falling in love, we know this from the trailer. The woman is mute and the man is a monster who grunts and growls and purrs. I wonder if this non-language affair allowed us to fill in the absence of words with our own emotional cheerleading for the couple; and so, feeling far more for them than we would if they could speak a language.
The film is a terrific example of “movie making”. The director brought it all down to the smallest detail and all of the details were well appreciated. Each character had a full story; from the FBI agent to the best friend to the co-worker: it is hard to invest the time to do this in a movie and we rarely see it. Too often the bad guy is just a cardboard cutout with no depth or motive beyond evil.
The story itself is nothing new, in fact this director is facing charges of plagiarism of a Paul Zindel play written in 1969. Variations of the Beauty and Beast story abound; from the Hunchback of Notre Dame to King Kong and so on.
Still, this movie has received 13 Oscar nominations and deserves every single one. The film is beautiful and creative and immersive. The soundtrack carries you along and keeps the pace moving forward. All of the actors are fully invested in their parts and the movie itself. Many of the surprises were well telegraphed and rewarding.
Someday we’ll have to have a talk about CGI and whether we mistrust what we see in a movie. Our willingness to suspend disbelief is very powerful, so I think CGI will probably be welcome for a long time.
I recommend this movie and I hope that if you see it that you’ll enjoy the “movie making” as much as the story!