The Aesthetics of Water

Screen Shot 2018-02-13 at 5.39.07 PM.pngGuillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water is set in Baltimore, 1962. It’s about an amphibious humanoid and a woman who can’t speak. There’s very little humor. Why does it remind me of Delicatessen and City of Lost Children?

Delicatessen came to us from France in ‘91. City of Lost Children came in ‘95. They’re from the team of Jeunet et Caró, a seriously creative and innovative collaboration. These two films are both futuristic, but with a sort of circus sensibility. They’re fantastic in the true sense of the word. Delicatessen comes with a good dose of humor: canned cow moos, squeaking bed scene, gallows jokes. City of Lost Children is not so funny; it’s mostly dreamy.

Despite the fact that Shape of Water is not overly humorous or dreamy, I was continuously thinking about those two films as I watched it. Underwater scenes are always going to remind me of City of Lost Children, so maybe that’s it. But SoW didn’t have a lot of underwater stuff even though the story was about a creature that lived in water.Screen Shot 2018-02-13 at 5.38.06 PM.png

I was quite amused when Elisa shoved the towel under the bathroom door and turned on the water full blast. It’s a scene unapologetically lifted from Delicatessen.

Maybe it’s the feel, the color, the look of SoW is all so J et C.

Before the general public even had an inkling of the rivets, brass, and glass steampunk would bring us, J et C were tuning in to the mechanical world. While the world was inventing cellphones and the Internet, J et C invented a future devoid of electronics, ubiquitous communication, and smart everything. They portrayed a dystopia far more beautiful than anything Apple of the time. They gave us the future with a 1960s aesthetic — brighter colors, real wood, cluttered homes.

Maybe that’s the connection. The setting in 1962. Going back to that time, Del Toro gave Shape of Water a reality that lay in our memories of how the world used to look. Even with its implausible premise, the thing seemed real. Jeunet et Caró didn’t worry so much about reality or plausibility. They instead immersed us in fantastic scenarios. You wished the world looked like that even as dark as it was. The directors could not be further apart in their objectives, yet somehow they are on the same wavelength. Gotta be the aesthetics of water.

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(reposted from Traffic Opera blog)