The Shape of Water

The most prominent affliction of The Shape Of Water is that it wants to gain legitimacy from a perceived purity of conscience, something it goes to great lengths to imbibe, even when it comes across as forceful. Its director, a master of layered cinematic fantasy, unfortunately puts forth his contrived liberalism as an insinuator of artistic integrity. What the director fails to surmise this time is that purity of expression and substance is seldom synonymous with an assertion of sentiment and generic benevolence for archetypes of compassion and ethical strength. Though the latter qualities are an integral part of an ideal socio-cultural fabric, a “wearing it on the sleeves” approach to illustrate their need can easily veer into blind pandering rather than a subtle, objective exploration of human nature.
Guillermo Del Toro’s film stresses on its intent to the point that it invariably dwarfs its visceral incandescence. What takes center stage is an obstinately facile, politically defunct self-righteousness with little room for counter-argument. What accentuates the gap between its wishful ideations and their nuanced realization is a rigid, almost detrimental adherence to functional metaphors and symbols. Love, loss, perception of beauty, purpose, meaning and empathy – these themes cannot merely rely upon archetypes of good and evil. Their intersection is a profound reflection of the true mosaic of life – complex, unrelenting, subtly experiential and sometimes even riddled with abstract discoveries. It is not the socio-political pigeonholing of intricate human behavior, which the film prizes much above anything else. The result is hence a beautifully filmed, visually detailed, lushly scored cinematic endeavor which becomes an intellectually cloistering exercise in token sympathy.

– written by Pranav Joshi

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