The next film in our Resilience Film Series is, like Moonlight, a recent Best Picture Academy Award winner: Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, which won the Oscar just this past February. The film is rated R for sexual content, graphic nudity, violence, and language. More than that, though, it is a singular vision of resilience created by one of the leading auteurs of world cinema and a unique aesthetic experience. Please join us in seeing it on the big screen on October 23 at 7:00 pm in Miller Auditorium (Stark Hall 103). Admission is free and the public invited!
Released late last year, The Shape of Water is a challenge to describe: it’s a mix of adventure, romance, melodrama, science fiction, and fantasy that defies easy categorization. Set in the 1960s, the plot follows Elisa (Sally Hawkins), a lonely custodian at a top-secret research facility, who forms a unique relationship with an amphibious creature being held captive. Co-starring Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, and Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water won not just Best Picture but also Best Director, Best Original Score, and Best Production Design at the 90th Academy Awards in February 2018.
Originally from Guadalajara, Mexico, director Guillermo del Toro developed his interest in filmmaking in his early teens. He is a film director, screenwriter, producer, and novelist whose work has alternated between idiosyncratic passion projects like Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone and more commercial fare like Pacific Rim. Over the years he has developed his own trademarks, a few of which can be seen in The Shape of Water including casting Doug Jones (as Amphibian Man), visually striking creatures, underground areas, and complex set designs. Del Toro creates a world with these unique features through which the protagonist, Elisa will discover her resilience.
The film’s protagonist, Elisa, is unable to communicate with her voice and communicates primarily through sign language. In the male-dominated 1960s, she wishes only to find someone who can understand her struggles and share a nonverbal bond in nonverbal communication. These adverse conditions require her to demonstrate resilience through an ability to recover from misfortune. According to The See Jane 100, in Hollywood films male protagonists outnumber females by more than double (59% to 26%), with far more screen time (61% to 39%) and speaking time (64% to 36%). These figures may be slowly improving but they still show how women lack a voice in major releases. Films like The Shape of Water can help inspire other girls and women, so they can make a change and be resilient.
It’s also rate that a major award-winning film features a mute protagonist using sign language to communicate. Two of the year’s major films–this and A Quiet Place, which we are showing the following week–feature American Sign Language prominently, if in very different circumstances and environments. There’s been some debate as to whether the use of sign was realistic in The Shape of Water and if its narrative ultimately ascribes agency to Hawkins’ character. Is a woman–a woman with a disability–free to choose whom, or what, she loves? To be a part of a dominant, hearing-enabled society? What does her choice mean? We hope you’ll give some thought to these questions and others as you watch.
Please join us Tuesday, October 23, at 7:00 pm in Miller Auditorium (Stark 103) for a night of fantasy, drama, romance, and adventure with this Oscar-winning tale of resilience, The Shape of Water. Admission is free and open to all, and as always, we hope to see you there!