Winner of the Golden Lion at the 2017 Venice Film Festival and four Oscars at the 2018 Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Production Design and Best Original Score), The Shape of Water by Mexican film director Guillermo Del Toro is a fairy tale in a real historical context. The terms “fairy tale” and “reality” do not appear meant to converge, but this is just one of the many paradoxes that typify the film.
Between reality and imagination
The film is set in the United States, in 1962, at the height of the Cold War. The world is divided into two blocks and the hatred between nations leads to reciprocal subterfuge, deception and spying. This era is marked by many other divisions that undermine society both within the U.S. and elsewhere, such as racial discrimination, class conflict and gender issues.
This is an era when the reemergence of long-standing fears, injustices and inequalities were commonplace, an era characterized by anxiety about possible nuclear conflict with the Soviet Union. It was the time of the space race, the civil rights movement and President Kennedy’s momentous push toward the future, something that would be brutally interrupted by his assassination.
This is the context against which this gifted and extraordinarily imaginative director contrasts his creation: an amphibious man, a relic of the remotest past who originates from the depths of the sea’s abyss, providing a lesson about the fundamental need for love to contemporary man who is so obsessively projecting himself toward the future.