Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” may not boast the century’s weirdest sci-fi movie coupling. That honor probably goes to the 2016 Mexican movie “The Untamed” (which, BTW, you should seek out).
But del Toro’s vision of human/fantastic creature sex is likely be the most romantic ever filmed. By the time Sally Hawkins’ mute heroine Elisa Esposito gets the gilled-and-gorgeous, unnamed fish man (played by del Toro’s regular monster mimer Doug Jones) alone in her flooding bathroom, the two beings’ need for each other could not be more palpable.
Especially Elisa’s, whose association of erotic pleasure with water is carefully set up from early in the film.
“First of all, female sexuality seen in a natural way is very rare in movies,” del Toro points out. “It’s always objectifying, always serving glamor or a wink-wink perversity, it doesn’t exist except from the male gaze. What I wanted to do was show how integral water was to her. When you’re blessed to have your first encounter in the bath where you’d been alone, it’s a very special repairing of your soul.”
“I land in her bathtub as my place of refuge,” Jones adds about his amphibious character. “Now we have no barriers between us, and privacy, so our touching becomes a big love scene. It had a purity and innocence to it that communicated volumes, I thought.”
The bathroom set in Elisa’s apartment was recreated in a water tank for when Elisa gets a bright idea for an even more heightened experience.
“When she stuffed towels under the door, turned the faucets on and flooded the room, we were in the tank,” Jones explains. “That was about eight feet of water, so we would have to gather our air at the top while treading water and then dive down to start the scene. Speakers were underwater with Guillermo on microphone, giving us very specific instructions: things to work out with camera angles, what looks best. It was like a dance underwater. That’s what it felt like, just beautiful.”
While the creature makes for Elisa’s ideal leading man, his nemesis, the government agent Strickland, is the real monster in the voiceless woman’s eyes, especially after he sexually harasses her at work.
With all of the current exposure of sexual…