Good morning! This week my co-author Achariya and I were able to attend an advance screening of The Shape of Water. We loved it and we had thoughts. The following are those thoughts. The section here is spoiler-free, but spoilers do appear in the discussions below the cut. Enjoy, and feel free to chime in!
JEN: Let me get this right out of the way – I loved it, I want people to support it, but I also recognize it’s not for everyone. Also there were three movies that I couldn’t help but think about: Amelie, for the love story, Splash, also for the love story, and The Creature From the Black Lagoon, mostly because of the Amphibian Man but also because that latter touched on concepts of loneliness.
ACHARIYA: Last night when I left the theater, I called my dad, a cinephile from way back. I told him the bare outlines of the plot, and he said, “Oh, obviously Guillermo Del Toro is a student of film, and has also seen Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein — he’s likely well versed in the genre of the relatable monster.” And yes, I also loved it.
JEN: Also I can’t help but think of this as Del Toro thumbing his nose at Universal’s failed attempt to launch a Dark Universe franchise; I read that he was offered the Dark Universe and turned it down. Had he taken it on we would be seeing a Creature From the Black Lagoon remake very like this, along with all the other well-loved monsters. Here’s a man who can’t write an unsympathetic monster, who will always see layers to every villain but most of all to the ugly, unloved, and broken. It’s a damned shame we won’t see those from him.
ACHA: I would argue that the introductory lines of the movie pointed to the true monster — and Del Toro was absolutely able to write an unsympathetic villain. It just wasn’t the one that you’d think. (More about that in spoilers!)
JEN: One more thing before we get into the spoilers – I found the movie brilliant because of the complete removal of its universe from reality, while still managing to feel believable. All the questions I had stemmed from situations that were created within the movie – there was never a moment where I thought ‘Well that can’t happen because X.’ The story had my complete buy-in.
ACHA: And I’d posit that this is in part because the audience has been given a perfect character through which to react to and question the movie, the main character’s best friend, Zelda (played by Octavia Spencer). Her responses throughout were exactly what mine were: “What?” “You did what??” “I — what?” And then, her ultimate sympathy and acceptance for the main character: “Okay, whatever works for you.”