What if the beauty fell for the beast?
That’s the underlying idea behind the winner of the Academy Award for Best Film this year, The Shape of Water, which director Guillermo del Tor says was heavily informed by his lifelong love for the 1954 film, The Creature From the Black Lagoon.
This video essay from ScreenPrism examines this influence and others such as Cocteau’s 1946 film Beauty and the Beast, and 1933’s King Kong and how del Toro took a range of cinematic touchstones and turned them on their heads, in the process giving them a fresh, vividly-alive interpretation such as making the “beauty” of The Shape of Water “beautiful but in a way that’s unique and powerful …” and not requiring the beast to change to win the love of the beauty.
The Shape of Water pays homage to a myriad of influences while never being beholding to them in their original form, testament to the enlightened, wholly different vision del Toro brings to a film about accepting the otherness of those around us without requiring them to change.
It’s a beautiful message in today’s harshly polarised world, an evergreen moral that will power this beautiful movie, which also reflects some beautiful visual influences such as those of the famed Powell and Pressburger (1948’s The Red Shoes) and the colour red, and makes use of classic TV shows such as Mister Ed and the revolutionary Many Lives of Dobie Gillis, to become a classic of our time.
If nothing else, as the video essay notes, del Toro’s desire was to make a film that, above all, celebrates love in a non-cynical way, that elevates something pure and beautiful and true above post-modern cynicism, and in so doing takes all its many influences and messages and creates something wholly original and utterly unique.