LOS ANGELES – Acclaimed Mexican director Guillermo del Toro says “The Shape of Water,” which has emerged as an early Oscar contender, is his most humane and moving film to date.
The picture, which premiered at two theaters in New York last week and is now being screened more broadly in the United States, won the Golden Lion at this year’s Venice Film Festival and has made the American Film Institute’s list of the top 10 movies of 2017.
“It’s the first film I’ve made with a life-affirming spirit,” the 53-year-old artist said. “Big productions like ‘Pacific Rim’ or ‘Hellboy’ had a little of that feeling, but this film is deeply personal and real.”
“Unlike ‘The Devil’s Backbone’ or ‘Pan’s Labyrinth,’ which dealt with loss, the poetry of what time has taken away, this film is an ode to life. It’s time to opt for life and what we can have,” he said.
“The Shape of Water” tells the story of a mute cleaning woman at an aerospace research center (a role played by Sally Hawkins) who is drawn to a mysterious amphibious humanoid creature played by Doug Jones.
It is set in the Baltimore, Maryland, in 1962 and features the fantasy aesthetic typical of Del Toro’s work.
This veritable love letter to cinema could return Del Toro to Oscar glory more than a decade after “Pan’s Labyrinth” won Academy Awards for Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography and Best Makeup and was nominated for Best Original Score, Best Original Screenplay and Best Foreign Language Film.
“My way of thinking is that awards are really important when they happen, but it shouldn’t devastate you when they don’t,” the director said.
Del Toro, who warned against ideologies that sow hate, hinder understanding and leave society more “divided than ever,” said he was proud of the film’s message of not fearing “the other.”
The filmmaker put his latest film together on a budget of just $20 million.
“The freedom I had here came with the price of a very tight budget, but the sense of liberation is huge and that’s very motivating for me,” Del Toro said.