At a top secret research facility in the 1960s, a lonely janitor forms a unique relationship with an amphibious creature that is being held in captivity.
The Shape of Water is a $20-million Cold War-era fairytale about a mute cleaning lady, Eliza (Sally Hawkins), who stumbles upon a top-secret tank where a team led by the brutal Col. Strickland (Michael Shannon) experiment upon a mysterious Amazonian fish-man. As Eliza falls for the fish-man, aka the Asset, del Toro delivers his twist on Beauty and the Beast, one where the beast need not be a prince to be loved.
- Some of the underwater Scenes were filmed using “dry for wet,” a technique where actors and props are suspended on wires and smoke is blown onstage. Bubbles and debris were added digitally to make the scenes look more realistic.
- It took three hours for Doug Jones to get into the Amphibian Man’s costume. Once he was in the suit, Doug Jones said, “I can’t see as well, I can’t hear much, I can’t feel much, and I got these webbed fingers on—I can’t do anything for myself.”
- The Amphibian Man’s gills were operated remotely by a mechanism tucked into the back of the suit.
The Amphibian Man’s eyes were lenses created out of acrylic resin which snapped magnetically into a housing on Jones’ face. “For extreme close-ups, I had eyes that I couldn’t see anything out of,” Jones said. “I had to know the geography of the room pretty well before we put those eyes in. We had other versions of the eyes I could see a little bit more through — the pupils had been cut out for wide shots where I’d have to move across a room or swim around underwater.” Eye blinks, along with other “micro-expressions” such as the furrowing of the brow, were added digitally in post-production. Each shot, however, was based on scans of Jones’ own expressions.
- Green is the movie’s dominant color. Production designer Paul Austerberry said “everything inside [Elisa’s] home hinted at water or the ocean.” Her “world is water surrounded with cyan, blues, aged texture and furniture shaped with curves, while [Gile’s] place is bounded by gold and mustard colors to signify warmth and empathy.”
- Green is carried further. It’s the color of the antagonist’s candies, Giles’ pie, and the lab’s interior, creating an unsettling mood and grimy and steamy feel. “The color teal is spread methodically throughout the hallways and detailed in the tile of the lab to signify the future. It even shows up when Strickland purchases his new Cadillac, ‘the car of the future.’ Strickland’s office is also tied into the theme, with greenish-blue tiles creating the backdrop to the glass-enclosed command center that sits high above the floor.”
- The main character is mute. “Elisa only communicates through sign language and body movement – the flick of an eyebrow, a shrug, a tender smile. To prep, Hawkins honed in on the role’s physicality, taking ASL lesson.”
- The antagonist, Richard Strickland’s bathroom routine shows how strict and scheduled he is with the world and himself.
- Of his character Strickland, Michael Shannon said, “The only thing with the candies, I kept trying to add it to more and more scenes. I thought if we were going to do the candy, we should do it wholeheartedly. And the candy really is insightful in terms of knowing where Strickland is at psychologically. His relation to the candy tells you kind of what’s going on in his head.”
- The movie was shot in 45 days.
Did you see The Shape of Water? What did you think?