Text by: Pier Paolo Scelsi
Translated by: Steve Piccolo
The second day of the 74th Venice Film Festival featured the presentation of The Shape of Water, a film produced and distributed by 20th Century Fox, written and directed by the Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro. The movie takes us back into recent American history, to the time of the Cold War, the worldwide split between East and West and, at the same time, the dawn of the society of consumption and advertising.
At the same time, reflecting a constant that is perhaps the most typical characteristic of the director of Blade II, The Shape of Water takes place in a fable-like atmosphere, where characters with vivid personalities interact with each other in a balance between normality and particularly engaging abstraction.
The protagonists are members of the basic social class in the socio-political spectrum of those days: Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is a janitor at a government research center, who became mute after a childhood accident, but is endowed with uncommon courage and expressive vigor; her colleague-godmother Zelda (Octavia Spencer) is a strong woman of color coming to grips with a marriage made of routines and silences. Giles (Richard Jenkins) is an older man, an unemployed illustrator over 60. Gay in a homophobic and racist world, he lives across the hall from Elisa and becomes her “accomplice” when their stories intersect and they become aware of the existence of a marine creature captured by the American government and held prisoner on the base in Baltimore.
The film accomplishes what it sets out to do, as a new version of the tale of “Beauty and the Beast” with a nod or two at Spielberg’s ET. It narrates physical emotions and enchantment, poetry and contemporary crookedness.
After 20 years of villainy in many Hollywood films, the Russians are no longer so “bad,” or at least they are no worse than their antagonists. What should frighten us, instead, is a world pervaded by the “absence” of fables.
What’s Dry in this movie
The “creature,” a splendid invention, fantasy divinity of a primitive mythology, forms that resonate with Damien Hirst’s “Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable”
The colors, a range of marine tones, for a “water” film.
The music, masterfully composed by Alexandre Desplat.
Narrating the sexuality of characters in a fable!