Shape of Water: Love Letter to Cinema from Del Toro

Artistically, The Shape of Water, is one of the year’s highlights and one of director del Toro’s most personal and most fully realized films.

Role of Music

Guillermo del Toro: The music was exceedingly important, partially because in a sense it was going to be the voice of the film as always, so it needed to be fluid and beautiful like water.  And on the other had, it was going to be the voice of Sally, because she has no voice, so the way we understand her and her emotions is through that soundtrack, that score.


European Flavor

DT: Alexandre asked me which is the composer that you most would like for us to reference, and I said Georges Delerue, which was a fantastic composer, and Alexandre is the rightful heir to George Delerue.  And he said give me another name and I said Nino Rota.  Because I wanted it to have a European flavor.  It’s a movie that is very American in certain aspects, but it’s very European in many others.  And I wanted it to have that flavor and that sense of sensuality and that love of cinema and that love of love.

Being Original, Avoiding Repetition

DT: I have been doing movies for 25 years and I think all the movies I have done led to this one.  The best way and I said this to some of you. my mentor in Mexico and my director/mentor said you finally exhaled.  He said you have been so contained for 25 years, you have been inhaling and holding, and finally let it all out, and let your breath come out and I agree.  It’s a movie that in so many ways flows as a human endeavor and you feel the energy, and it feels more effortless and yet it’s more precise than any of the other movies.  So it’s extremely difficult to execute this movie and if you gauge it in terms of goals and ambitions, and what it achieves, it achieves something almost impossible and it feels as a musical, a thriller, a comedy, it’s a love letter to cinema on many genres, and yet it feels of a piece emotionally and artistically.

New Beginning?

DT: I don’t know what it is, but it’s new.  At age 52, I did stop and I did say what am I going to do in this movie that I haven’t done?  Very conscientiously and very purposely I said I want to do something different, and you feel it. And I think when you are watching the movie, it’s a summation of many things, a synthesis of sorts of many things I have done in the past, but it feels new.  My nine movies before were sort or re-phrasings of my childhood mythology and this is the first time I speak as an adult, about our identity and about our otherness, about understanding and empathy and about sex, about what it is to love, these are adult concerns.

Being Different

DT: Twenty years ago it was very difficult, but now if you are Latin-American filmmaker, you can dream of making anything and it’s allowed.  In the 80s and 90s you had no model other than regional filmmaking, but now you can say, you can be a filmmaker from Chile and from Argentina and from anywhere in South America and say I want to make a big budget action movie, adventure movie, a small, everything is permitted.


Cuaron and Inarritu

DT: Now the friendship stays the same I think mostly because it’s changed if that makes sense, because we change with each other.  And the hardest thing to find in this business is someone that will tell you the truth, not out of cruelty, but out of love.  That one that will be the person to tell you hey, slow it down buddy, don’t read your own Press, you are changing in a bad way, so sort of retrace your steps.  Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro Inarritu were big agents in me making this movie.  I was doing to do “Pacific Rim 2” and we were prepping, and Alfonso and Alejandro said there is an impasse, go do the other movie, because that is what you need to do.  And there was as an impasse and I took this movie.  I went and did this movie, which is the unsafe choice because it’s a movie in which you are going to invest all your salary.  This movie was made for $19.5 million, exactly the same budget that “Pan’s Labyrinth” was made for ten years ago.  But the scope is much bigger and the ambitions are bigger, it was very difficult choice to make from the outside and a very difficult choice to make here with my friends.