Director: Guillermo del Toro.
Got to see this as a surprised preview and there was a mixed response from the crowd as the title was revealed. But I, myself, was actually looking for to this, always being more intrigued by del Toro than classing myself as a fan.
Written and directed by the famed Guillermo del Toro, this film has been a personal and passion project for him, a story that follows a relationship between Elisa, a mute janitor and a strange amphibious humanoid, that’s being held captive in a secret research facility somewhere in 1962’s Baltimore.
It’s very typically del Toro, being quite the dark fantasy that’s not afraid to be horrid, violent and alluring. I have found his films quite daring and this is no exception. The violence and gruesome mishaps I can understand, but I do question whether the level of nudity was necessary. It just proves that del Toro is fully prepare to push the boundaries of the film’s genre.
Guillermo del Toro wrote the character of Elisa especially for Hawkins and for no one else, and I can totally see why. Hawkins deceptively beautiful, elegant, graceful and an absolute wonder to watch; I can’t envision anyone else to play the role. I say deceptively, because, and I mean this with no disrespect, but Hawkins doesn’t look like the stunning actress like Theron, Portman or Lawrence; she has a very different beauty about her and this role displays this perfectly.
It’s seems the Amphibian man was perfect for del Toro’s regular Doug Jones too. Playing a part that could well serve as a origin movie to Hellboy’s Abe Sapien, who he also played. But there is no connection to the super hero apart from similarities in looks. As with Hawkins, this isn’t a speaking role so most, if not all of his character is portrayal through his emotions and behaviour. Something Jones is quite familiar with.
The supporting cast of Shannon, Spencer and Jenkins are all equally fantastic. Spencer being Elisa‘s friend and colleague at work with Jenkins playing Elisa’s quirky, cat-loving neighbour. But Shannon plays the nasty Colonel who captured the creature and is charged with overseeing the research on him. He’s brutal, violent and treats the creature with such disdain; at times Shannon reminded me of the nasty side Samuel L. Jackson.
Again, as expected with del Toro, the film is beautifully captured with almost constant moving panning shots and it’s his use of colour that helps evoke the mood and emotion of the piece. The production alone is an absolute masterpiece, and it’s all impressively done on a relatively low budget of only $19million.
And then we have Alexandre Desplat’s enchanting and elegant score that has an aquatic tranquility about it. Other parts of his score sounds very much from the 1920’s and could will be a score suitable for a Japanese RPG fantasy game. All these elements combined with the story and the acting creates a wonderful fantasy set in the real world.
Though set in America, I found it to be incredibly European, reminding me much of Amélie, which might explain why it took the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival last year, being the first English language film to win since 2010. Not to mention the 13 Oscar nomination it received. [Edit] wining the Oscars for Best Director, Best Picture, Best Production and Original Score.
It has to be said, none of this was my initial reaction to the film, this is a film you have to digest, and it might sit with you for a while and in fact, it was really only until i started to write this did I realise how much I actually liked this film. It’s a stunning piece of work and is a true testimonial to not only Guillermo del Toro’s passion and work but to the very art form of cinema itself.
Running Time: 9
The Cast: 10
Job Description: 9
The Extra Bonus Point: 10 for being such a deceptively beautiful story, film and star (Hawkins).