Sunday, 21 January 2018

The Shape of Water (5 Stars)

This is the ninth film in the Stuttgart White Nights Festival.

My regular readers must have noticed that my reviews were shorter than usual the last two days. My regular readers who are also attentive already know the reason why. When I visit a film festival I watch a lot of films, sometimes as many as five in a day. I want to write about them all while they're fresh in my head, but I don't have much time to write because of a little thing that I do every day called sleep. For that reason I give myself a ten minute limit to write about festival films.

"The Shape of Water" is the last film I've seen at the White Nights Festival, and I consider it the best film, so I can stay up late writing about it. I don't have to get up early to watch any films tomorrow. It's a film that deserves a bit of extra effort.

Reviewers have written that this is Guillermo Del Toro's best film since "Pan's Labyrinth". I disagree. I consider this to be his best film ever, leaving "Pan's Labyrinth" far behind. The film isn't original, but when was originality ever necessary to make a good film? It copies the story of "Splash", but with reversed genders.

A secret government laboratory in Baltimore in the early 1960's is doing research to assist the space race. An underwater creature is delivered from South America which is thought to hold the secret of surviving in space. The creature is tortured by the laboratory's sadistic boss, Colonel Strickland, who plans to ultimately dissect the creature for his research.

A mute cleaning woman called Elisa sees the creature and has sympathy with it. The creature reacts to her kindness, and the sympathy turns into love. Elisa realises that the only way to save the creature's life is to smuggle it out of the laboratory.

The film can be praised from so many different angles. As a fairy tale for adults it delivers everything that's expected, including a happy ending. (That's not a spoiler, because everyone knows that films like this have a happy ending). The cinematography highlights the bland imagery associated with the 1950's and 1960's. Sally Hawkins, an actress I've never paid attention to before now, puts on a brilliant performance as Elisa. Octavia Spencer also acts brilliantly as Elisa's colleague Zelda, but we expect no less from her in all her roles.

This is the most nominated film for this year's Bafta awards, in 12 categories. It's one of the favourites to win the Oscar for best film, although it has some tough competition this year.

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