The Shape of Water

ShapeofWater
Mine is often ‘container shaped’

H e’s an amphibian. He owns two sets of lungs. He can breathe in and out of water – albeit for a limited amount of time – still, he doesn’t start dying the second he surfaces. That’s an amphibian. The press release even lists (not the former Cleveland Indians relief pitcher, nor the present-day Alabama senator) Doug Jones as “amphibian man.” Take it from a guy who answers to “Frog.” Amphibian. So just stow the “fish-man” talk. I’m not gonna go over this again.

We may never know upon exactly how many fronts the Cold War was fought. With shady troglodytic agents on both sides of the iron curtain, who’s to say there wasn’t a misunderstood, magical (?), amphibian man both sides battled over? And suppose you lived in the post Korean War era, caught this great underwater beast, immediately recognized its value as a quasi-hominid, and wanted your government alone to exploit the creature to its fullest … where would you take it? How about a secret lab in Baltimore? One of those places that looks like the underside armpit of Sea World where there are neither tourists nor cruise ship clad spokespeople … somewhere instead only a select few specifically without PhDs in marine biology are allowed to clean up whatever mess sea things make.

Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) and Zelda Fuller (Octavia Spencer) work the night shift at such a place. When not cleaning up fish slop, they hang out and talk together, which is to say Zelda does all the talking. Elisa is mute, her vocal cords removed in infancy. That’s messed up, but on her C-date profile, it aligns perfectly with amphibi-man. He doesn’t talk much, either, and his gills resemble her neck scars. Elisa lives alone, almost certainly out of dissatisfaction for primate life forms; all she needs is one glimpse at the creature and she’s hooked, so-to-speak.

Luckily, this is the 1960s, a time when even the Rat Pack could infiltrate the most heavily guarded of safes, so all it takes is an easily spied four-digit code to get access to my captured lover monster. Elisa gives him an egg and signs “egg” when he takes it. He signs “egg” back. Holy crap, he understands language. Well, this just got deeper, didn’t it? Now you may ask how Sally Hawkins can fall for some sort of hideous swamp beast. Obviously, you haven’t see Maudie. After watching Sally fall for Ethan Hawke’s awful, you would sooner believe her capable of showing love for any other semi-sentient life form from garden slugs to politicians.

The foil to our unnamed creature of sympathy is the cinema’s favorite human monster, Michael Shannon. As facility enforcer Richard Strickland, Shannon’s hobbies include torture, condescension, and peeing in front of the help. There’s little question writer/director Guillermo del Toro wanted Strickland to be a Strict-land contrast to beast as one who demonstrated normal to the public, but was pure evil inside. The inner becomes outer when Strickland gets two fingers reattached, but the reattachment doesn’t take and the digits slowly rot over the course of the film. As with most del Toro, The Shape of Water is a fairly graphic film.

The Shape of Water could be called a sequel to The Creature from the Black Lagoon. The timing works, too, if one wanted to go in that direction. Lagoon came out in 1954, and the Water creature was captured “in South America,” where Lagoon is set. I see it less as a Lagoon follow up and more as a retelling of King Kong. There are exploiters of the beast, there is a lover of the beast, and there is the beast himself, both puzzle and anomaly to his given milieu. There are only a few ways the Kong tale can end, and fewer still are happy ones. You’ve been forewarned.

♪Oooooo, something’s got a hold of my arm
It’s a creature, who resembles a wet Sleestack
Hang out right there, I might have an egg in my lunch, hold on
And looks wise, you’re so much better than Mike Shannon

I might be in love
With a thing from the deep
I might be in love
Hoping he’s not a creep
I might be in love
I might have to move♫

Rated R, 123 Minutes
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Writer: Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor
Genre: Kong
Type of being most likely to enjoy this film: Troy McClure
Type of being least likely to enjoy this film: The vast anti- amphibio-hominid crowd

♪ Parody Inspired by “I Think I’m in Love”

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