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Shape Of Water Is A Fascinating Study Of  Indefinable Love

Subhash K . Jha

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Shape Of Water

Shape Of Water

Starring: Sally Hawkins,Richard Jenkins, Michael Shanon, Octavia Spencer

Directed by: Guillermo del Toro

Rating: *** ½(3 a  half stars)

Touching , warm-hearted and moving as it , The Shape Of Water does not acquire that edifying shape of greatness it aspires to. I will  tell you why. It’s a beautifully conceived tale  of a love so impossible that it makes our soul shivers in  frightened delight.But it remains rather blissfully, in  the zone  of the incredible  because  of  its impossibility.

Director Guillermo del Toro taps the fantasy element and  yearning that underlines the very real setting of workingclass misery. He shoots  the film like  a morality tale in la-la-land.There is even a  musical number where  our mute heroine Eliza(the wonderfully self-effacing Sally Hawkins, last seen doing  trivia in Paddington) bursts into a Judy Garland styled love confession for her  object of adoration, a half-human half-amphibian  creature she has rescued and kidnapped from a laboratory involved in unmentionable  and  needless to say, unclassified, international rackets where she  works as a janitor.

I know  I am tumbling over  a torrent  of information here. Catch  your breath.But that’s the shape this shapely film takes in our perception. A kind of breathless  ardour pervades the  very basic plotline  about a lonely spinster heroine  , her aging gay neighbour Giles(Richard Jenkins)and  the King Kong like creature whom they hide in their apartment.

 The  narrative is  a fascinating mix of fairytale fantasy and workingclass desolation spiked with a quirky humour and wacky brutality.It’s  like Quentin Tarantino gone sober.  Sally Hawkins and  Richard Jenkins are  almost like Stephen Spielberg’s kids from ET  who have their own  little secret freak-friend hidden in their home.

There is  an innocent wonderment  secreted in this remarkable film. No  doubt  about that.  But finally what I saw was a very basic skeletal morality tale where a  poor brave lonely woman takes on a bully from the Establishment Richard Strickland (played by the scarily scummy Micheal Shannon) and defeats  him because…well,  love conquers all. At  least in the movies.

To  drive  in  the point of  how essential it is to fill  our lives with wishful thinking(or, as it happens in this film, wishful sinking since  the  amour is aqueous ) the director situates the drama of  Eliza’s life in a cinematic  stratosphere filled  with sounds of delighted shrieks and petrified grunts. You see, Eliza lives in an apartment  above a  movie theatre and lives  a life of  suppressed  longings.

Hawkins  is so  majestically mousy  in her  lovelorn avatar , her  battle with the Establishment seems doomed from the start.Making the conflict even more unequal  is  Michael Shannon’s villainy,  so vile he makes our Khilji in Padmaavat  appear humane in  comparison. Shannon is  a racist,sexist, over-sexed , sadistic  lout who uses his brute force with that typically American arrogance that Trump  would  approve of.

This  sense of contemporary conviction  compounded with a  nostalgia for a time when  love was an ache  in the heart moving slowly towards the groin, is what  makes this film so special. Denuded  of that sense of layered luminosity that we’ve seen  in Guillermo del Toro’s  best works(Pan’s Labyrinth, Crimson Peak)  The Shape Of Water would have been a classic children’s fairytale  if the Beauty did not have the hots  for the Beast. Bath tubs will  never be   a place of innocent contemplation again.

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