THE SHAPE OF WATER – CREATING A FAIRY TALE FOR TROUBLED TIMES
by Gina McIntyre
Forward by Guillermo del Toro
Published by Titan Books
Available in hardback
With the release of Guillermo del Toro’s Oscar nominated fairy tale, THE SHAPE OF WATER, those fine folks at Titan Books have published a behind-the-scenes book that details the making-of of what I can confirm is one of the most beautiful, enchanting films I’ve seen in recent years.
Measuring 9.5 inches by 11.25 inches, THE SHAPE OF WATER – CREATING A FAIRYTALE FOR TROUBLED TIMES is a 160 page hardback book that has everything you could want to know about the film; its creation from an idea long held by director del Toro to its completion which took six solid years of graft. Guillermo del Toro is known for his dark takes on cinema, with Pan’s Labyrinth, The Devil’s Backbone and Hellboy just a few of his directorial efforts. In the introduction to the book, del Toro spills his heart on how much his latest fantasy effort THE SHAPE OF WATER means to him and surely he’ll be pleased that, like Pan’s, its receiving Oscar interest.
As with all books like this, do watch the film before you read as they often contain spoilers and this one is no exception. Inside the book, del Toro and his cast – regular collaborator Doug Jones, Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins and Michael Stuhlbarg – share their experiences on making the film. It’s thrilling to read about how Sally Hawkins came to be the choice of lead Elise and each character is given a complete profile from their likes and dislikes to their full life history from their parents to present day. It’s interesting to read about backstory of Elisa’s friend Zelda who works as a cleaner with Elisa at the government facility. From the film, we get an idea that her home life with lazy husband Brewster is a tiresome one but del Toro’s notes about Zelda’s history really add to that character and for Octavia, like the other actors with theirs, helped them to become the on-screen persona.
Where the book really comes into its own though is the design of the movie – from set dressing to the creation of the amphibian. Pages go into detail about how certain scenes were dressed like Elisa’s apartment to finding the right architecture for the car showroom where Strickland buys his teal Cadillac. All these things you might not take much notice of or recall initially but time was spend to really create every tiny detail that appears so beautifully on screen. One of my favourite parts is reading how the opening scene was put together where we see Eliza floating in an underwater fantasy – it really isn’t how you think! Then we get onto Doug Jones and how he quietly persevered through pain to kneel hours on end whilst being prodded and bashed by Michael Shannon as Strickland beats the poor creature played by Jones; all in the name of art.
For most people, like myself, the main interest of the making of the movie will be the creation of the amphibian creature and the book ensures not to skimp on this particular aspect. Pages are dedicated to the creation and concept of the creature, right down to his skin tone and the material used to transform Doug Jones into the ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon’-esque beast. Full colour photos capture the brilliance of the costume in a variety of light and angles with accompanying write-up detailing just how and why the shape, colours and features were used. After all, he is the star of the show. The designers share their thoughts and processes on everything from applying the costume pieces to the digital effects that were used to enhance the appearance of the creature; everything that brought this magnificent creation to life.
Whether you’re a huge fan of the movie or simply a film making enthusiast, THE SHAPE OF WATER – CREATING A FAIRYTALE FOR TROUBLED TIMES has everything you could possibly want to know about the making of the film and that in itself is as gripping as the finished piece we see on the silver screen.
A mesmerising treasure of a book that will whisk you away into its fantasy world where ideas and dreams really can come true.