Oscars 2018 Best Picture ‘The Shape of Water’ still showing in PH cinemas

“The Shape of Water”, this year’s biggest winner at the recently concluded 90th Academy Awards that won top awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best in Original Score and Best Production Design is still showing in Philippine cinemas – S’Maison, SM Mall of Asia, SM North Edsa, Greenhills Theatermall, Powerplant, Rockwell Santolan, SM Cauayan, SM Seaside, SM Cebu, SM Rosales, Eastwood and Robinson’s Galleria.

An uplifting, inspiring and totally entertaining movie, “The Shape of Water” hits home as it relates to local Pinoy folklore and romance. Directed by Guillermo del Toro who has dedicated his life to fairy tales and fantastical creatures, his fascination with the macabre has marked all of his features since his 1993 directorial debut Cronos. From his earliest days growing up in Guadalajara, Mexico, telling stories about escaping to realms governed by monsters was in his DNA.

“The Shape of Water” brings its audience into a mysterious government facility where, in the deepest recesses of the lab, an amphibious creature (played by Doug Jones) is being studied for its unusual abilities. As Agent Strickland (Michael Shannon) demands for it to be killed and autopsied, Dr. Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) insists that the creature’s secrets can only be revealed with a lighter touch. But it’s the facility’s quietest employee who realises the truest connection to the creature. Mute cleaner Elisa (Sally Hawkins) feels a strange affinity with this mysterious visitor from the deep. And as the men in charge prevaricate, she resolves to release the creature from its captors, with the aid of her friend Zelda (Octavia Spencer) and her next door neighbour Giles (Richard Jenkins).

Del Toro looks back on the birth of the movie, “In the 90s I pitched the idea of making an amphibian man romance, but as a sci-fi movie. It was about explorers that go to the Amazon. Nobody loved it, and nobody wanted to do it. But it remained as an idea in the back of my head, because one of the main motifs of fairy tales is the story of a fish that conceives three wishes, and a fisherman or a fisherman’s wife, that lets the fish go. I co-wrote a novel called Trollhunters and my co-writer, Daniel Krauss, we were having breakfast in Toronto as I was prepping Pacific Rim, and he said, “You know, I have this idea about secret government keeping an amphibian creature, and this janitor befriends him.” And I said, “I’m buying the idea from you. Say no more. Don’t write anything.” I said, “Put it in three lines, and name the price.” He put it in three lines. I bought it and I guaranteed him co-story. That was four or five years ago. I just thought it was a love story,” relates the director.

And of the movie’s heroine, played by Sally Hawkins, Del Toro says, “To me, Elisa is born in a place that she doesn’t quite belong in, and the essence of the love story and the fairy tale for me is that there are two journeys that heroes and heroines take in fairy tales: to find themselves, to find their place in the world, or to find their place in an alternate world in which they can live. In those three quests, you can fit almost every fairy tale ever written. Elisa does all three. She’s an outcast, and she’s literally invisible, cleaning toilets and picking up garbage, nobody sees her. She becomes very strong and does things against an incredibly powerful figure. She’s very brave; she becomes very brave. And also, she finds a place where she belongs and a person that tells her who she is. Not by dictating, but by belonging. She’s very beautiful.”

From 20th Century Fox, catch this year’s top Oscar winner “The Shape of Water” in Philippine cinemas.

Best actress nominee Sally Hawkins is in love with a monster in ‘The Shape of Water’

Acclaimed filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro, known for his hit feature films “Hellboy” and “Pacific Rim” brings a new world far beyond one’s imagination in “The Shape of Water”, composed of a stellar cast that includes Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones and Michael Stuhlbarg.

“The Shape of Water” is a fairy tale set in the Cold War era that sees the journey of Elisa (Hawkins), a mute janitress in a highly-secured government facility who connected and fell in love with a marine creature (Jones). From Elisa’s loneliness and powerlessness, she soon becomes a heroine who takes huge risks, made all the more extraordinary because the role is almost without words. Rendered mute by a childhood trauma, Elisa communicates in American Sign Language (ASL), but she is able to express herself effusively when she encounters the strange aquatic creature being warehoused in the government lab where she works as a cleaning lady. Elisa sees none of the creature’s oddities when she sets eyes on the iridescent beauty in chains – to her, he is sheer loneliness and that makes him instantly worthy of her attention.

Elisa’s rich and brave interior world comes to life via a luminous performance from Academy Award® nominee Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky, Blue Jasmine) that propels the story forward at every turn. Hawkins knew instantly there has never been and will never be a role quite like Elisa. “It’s so rare that you get a role that asks you to put it all out there. Where it’s about unadulterated expression and words are not needed, and you have the freedom to express so much through your eyes, breath and body. That is Elisa.”

Hawkins was Del Toro’s muse as he was writing. “Elisa is not someone who had a horrible existence until the creature showed up. She was not leading a glamorous existence by any means but she was content. I needed someone who evokes that kind of happiness, whose face is able to express every hue without a word. Sally has that kind of unique energy, so that is why I wrote it for her. Sally is the most genuine, unaffected person and I don’t think she is capable of doing anything that isn’t emotionally real.”

The first read of the script beckoned to Hawkins so powerfully it sparked a few anxieties. “It was so moving. It was interestingly familiar to me, yet it was like nothing I’ve encountered. I felt like Elisa was a deep part of me, or like I knew her in another life. I also felt it was the ultimate romantic fairy tale. At first I was convinced that Guillermo had the wrong person for the role,” she confesses. “It’s the kind of romantic lead I really didn’t ever think I would play, so it’s been a dream gift to me.”

For Hawkins there was no other means to doing so except to dive in to the deep end with full abandon, navigating Elisa’s blooming courage as well as a florid fantasy life that becomes unexpectedly real – with the most unexpected of partners. Working with Del Toro helped her to let go completely and submerge herself. “Being Elisa was an incredibly internal kind of journey, but Guillermo is so inclusive and so values your creativity as well, and that he really helped,” Hawkins explains. “He has such a powerful vision that whatever your fears are, he just takes them away and says ‘let me worry about that.’”

Hawkins had a steep learning curve to begin with. She began taking ASL classes and dance lessons well before rehearsals began. She also began feeling out the way Elisa moves, her lightness on the earth. “To me, it seemed she is always floating, always in a kind of dance, so I wanted to get at that sort of otherworldly feeling in her physical being,” she describes.

“The Shape of Water” opens in cinemas nationwide on February 21 from 20th Century Fox.

MOVIE REVIEW: The Shape of Water (2017)

An allegorical tale of the co-existence between human and monster, The Shape of Water confirms that director Guillermo Del Toro’s hands on magic realism is masterful, and his breakthrough with 2006’s Pan’s Labyrinth was not a fluke.

Set in the outbreak of the Cold War, The Shape of Water follows the life of Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins), a rendered mute, who works as a janitor for a classified, underground government laboratory. She soon caught herself in the middle of unraveling the secrecy of her workplace: the imprisonment of a sea monster with omniscient abilities. Government officials use it to conduct tests and experiments in preparation to beat the Soviet Union in the Space Race.

As a mute, Elisa’s livelihood is limited to blue collar jobs, yet she treats it with such dedication and finesse, as if she works as a corporate professional. This suggests that, despite being categorized in a lower social status, she is never sub par in her own terms as that has always been her reality. Her condition is never reliant to the definition of others. The first few scenes show how she revolves in her own world — the way she delicately presses her clothes, prepares her bath and brushes her shoes before going to work, taking so much pride in what she does — she never sees herself as someone any lesser.

Despite being, a love story between a woman and a monster, Del Toro’s approach to the film is never about bestiality. He used the concept of the monster’s existence as if they are the patron saints of imperfection. This is parallel towards the imperfect life of Elisa, mirroring to that of the sea creature — both are living beings suffering the alienation because of their differences and abnormalities. Del Toro’s direction never leans towards the path of eerie and horror — it was simply a story between two broken souls who possess compassion, sympathy, and the ability to look beyond the each others’ disabilities.

The production design played a vital role in expressing the undertones of the characters’ emotions. During the scenes where Elisa is at home, the film felt claustrophobic — suggesting the character’s imprisonment in the tight spaces of her home because of her condition. The lighting is dark, yet it exposed little yellow lights here and there, almost sepia — suggesting that she never sees hopelessness in her world. As she goes to work, the cinematography changes from tight closeups to wide, panorami shots — this shows how big the world around her is, and she didn’t seem to be bothered by it. This serves as a contrast between her reality and the world; it suggests how little she is for anyone to even bother notice her.

The screenplay used Chekhov’s Gun technique in the film, particularly on how Elisa shows her care and affection to others. The hard-boiled egg was utilized thoroughly to express this intent. The first scene shows how much she takes time and effort to cook these eggs, basically almost every morning; she then gives them to Giles (Richard Jenkins), her long-time friend. He rejects it; stating that she “need not to bother”. The sea monster is the only one who accepts it; ultimately, “egg” becomes the first English word it learns. The egg symbolizes a woman’s capacity to nourish, and perhaps this is something that Elisa has been long waiting to offer to someone who will accept what she can give. She found this in the monster. Keep in mind that her capabilities to give are limited, thus every little thing meant a whole lot to her.

Sally Hawkins’ performance is the heart of the film. Given that her character didn’t have any speaking lines, a lot had to be said with every muscle in her face. Every stare, her eyes pierce with a hundred layers of emotions. Her mouth moves as if she is dying to speak her entire life. Her body language vibrates what she feels inside; every tick of a finger and every stomp of her foot made me feel something from her. She didn’t need a word to convey these emotions. I felt her contentment; I felt her simple joys, I felt her sexual frustrations; I felt her anguish; I felt her love for the monster. Hawkins’ gave the best female performance of the year.

The film used music and dance in fantasy sequences to display the subconscious of Elisa. In scenes where her emotions are too overwhelming not even sign language can express it, Del Toro shifts to a monochromatic musical number where she dances and sings as if she were in a musical. The film used the dream-like landscapes and elements of fantasy as a remedy for an inconvenient reality. This supports Elisa’s love for tap-dancing, and watching TV shows where flapper girls are dancing in jitterbug shows; her love for music and dance is an escapade from her own mundane life.

Overall, The Shape of Water embodies exactly what its title suggests — it’ll fill ever corner of your being, and how indefinite its form is gives you a thousand possibilities of what to feel while watching the movie. A monumental achievement for Guillermo Del Toro for, one again, giving a whiplash of his magic realist genius. Clearly, one of the best films of 2017.

5 out of 5 stars

There’s more to romance genre in Guillermo del Toro’s ‘The Shape of Water’

Take a deep breath and plunge deeply into the latest genre-defying romance fantasy movie “The Shape of Water” starring an impressive cast that includes Academy winner Octavia Spencer with Academy Award nominees Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon and Richard Jenkins along with Doug Jones, known for his pivotal nonhuman roles.

From master storyteller, Guillermo del Toro (Pacific Rim, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Book of Life), comes “The Shape of Water”, an other-worldly fairy tale, set against the backdrop of Cold War era America circa 1962. In the hidden high-security government laboratory where she works, lonely Elisa (Hawkins) is trapped in a life of isolation. Elisa’s life is changed forever when she and co-worker Zelda (Spencer) discover a secret classified experiment.

“The Shape of Water” opens February 2018 in cinemas from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.