Shape of Water, The (Blu-ray) (2017)

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Released 9-May-2018

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Fantasy Featurette-Making Of-A Fairy Tale for Troubled Times (28:55)
Featurette-Anatomy of a Scene: Prologue (3:14)
Featurette-Anatomy of a Scene: The Dance (4:50)
Interviews-Crew-Shaping the Waves: A Conversation with James Jean (5:50)
Featurette-Guillermo del Toro’s Master Class (13:27)
Theatrical Trailer-x 3 (6:55)
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2017
Running Time 123:19
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Guillermo de Toro

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Sally Hawkins
Michael Shannon
Octavia Spencer
Richard Jenkins
Doug Jones
Michael Stuhlbarg
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Alexandre Desplat

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 7.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 5.1
French dts 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
German dts 5.1
Italian dts 5.1
Portuguese dts 5.1
Russian dts 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     It is the early 1960s, at the height of the Cold War. Orphaned, lonely and mute woman Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) lives over a run-down movie theatre with Giles (Richard Jenkins), an out of work graphic artist, in the adjoining appartment. Elisa works with her friend Zelda (Octavia Spencer) as a lowly cleaner in a secret government laboratory but her life changes dramatically when she discovers in a tank at the laboratory an aquatic humanoid creature (Doug Jones) that Strickland (Michael Shannon) had captured in the Amazon and shipped to American to be examined and experimented upon.

     Over time Elisa finds that she is able to build rapport with and communicate with the creature in basic ways, including through music and hard boiled eggs! But when it becomes clear that the Strickland is going to kill the creature to perform an autopsy, with the help of Zelda, Giles and Dr. Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg), who is secretly a Russian agent, the creature is rescued and secreted in Elisa’s apartment until it can be released into the sea when the rains come. While waiting for that to happen, however, the creature and Elisa fall in love. What can the future hold for Elisa and the creature and can anything be resolved before Strickland finds out who took the creature and where it is.

     The Shape of Water is another fantasy / fairy tale from master writer / director Guillermo de Toro. He is equally at home with big, noisy blockbusters, such as Hellboy (2004 / 2008) or Pacific Rim (2013), as he is with supernatural / horror stories such as Cronos (1993), Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) or Crimson Peak (2015). However, in whatever genre or mode del Toro works in he is always an intensively visual director where production design and colour play a vital role in telling the story. In Crimson Peak, for example, the colours were dazzling and Mario Bava-like but The Shape of Water is a very different beast. Set during the Cold War, mostly at night in the rain, in the dull, closed in recesses of Elisa or Giles’ apartments or in the grey confines of the government laboratory, colours are sombre. Strickland, the villain, is the man in the black suit. There are a couple of brighter sequences with a yellow tinge; one is a meeting of the Russians in a Hungarian restaurant, the other features Strickland in his “American dream” home with his wife and two children. But while the colour scheme may be brighter in these scenes, the people involved are those with the blackest hearts in the film! Colour elsewhere is also significant; Elisa when she finds companionship with the creature starts to wear a red hair band, and later a red dress, while the sequences of love underwater are a beautiful blue.

     The amount of production detail is stunning, especially inside the apartments with their bric-a-brac, wallpaper, artefacts, drawings and old style TV sets. The period of the film is indicated not only by items such as the cars and buses, but by the black and white films, mostly musicals, and TV series that Elisa and Giles watch and the songs from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s that occur in the soundtrack. These songs augment the beautiful, evocative, delicate original score of Alexandre Desplat. It is perhaps no surprise that The Shape of Water while nominated for 13 Oscars won for best score and production as well as the best director and best film gongs.

     The film did not, however, win any writing or acting awards. Sally Hawkins is excellent and Richard Jenkins is also very good, but Michael Shannon is rather a one note villain and the script overplays the theme that it is the humans, not the creature, who are the monsters here; in the extras del Toro confirms that if this film had been made in the heyday of creature pictures, it would be Strickland who would be the hero, the creature the monster to be destroyed. Del Toro also calls his film a ‘fairy tale for troubled times’. It is, all at once, a fantasy, a creature film, a Cold War thriller, a musical, a period piece and, above everything else, a Beauty and the Beast romance, a love story. However, one cannot help but feel that the themes, the juxtaposition of genres, production design and colours overwhelm the actors, meaning that, in the end, The Shape of Water feels surprisingly cold in its execution.

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Transfer Quality


     The Shape of Water is presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     This is a dark film with most sequences occurring at night, in rain, in darkened apartments, underwater or in the grey environment of the government laboratory. Colours are muted, including the dark green of the tank in the laboratory. The prologue, with its roving camera revealing a dream environment of floating furniture, artefacts and a floating Elisa sets the tone with strong detail, allowing everything to be seen. Costumes are also dull; this is an era of Cold War paranoia and what splashes of colour there are, such as the burning chocolate factory, or Elisa’s headband or dress, stand out as they are meant to. The blacks are deep and shadow detail excellent. Skin tones are natural, brightness and contrast consistent. There are no marks, noise reduction or other artefacts on show.

     Subtitles are available in a wide range of European languages.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     Feature audio options are English DTS-HD MA 7.1, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Russian DTS 5.1, Spanish, Portuguese, Ukranian Dolby Digital 5.1 and English descriptive audio in Dolby Digital 5.1.

     I am not set up for 7.1 so cannot comment on that. However, this is not an action film as such and the 5.1 set-up comes over nicely as a subtle audio track. Dialogue was clear while the rears and surrounds provided ambient sounds such as the rain, thunder, running water, heart beats as well as the Oscar winning music of Alexandre Desplat. His beautiful, delicate score was augmented by pop songs and songs from movie musicals performed by artists including Alice Faye, Betty Grable, Marilyn Munroe, Andy Williams, Carmen Miranda and Pat Boone. Effects such as gunshots were loud, the sub-woofer supported the music and water effects.

     Lip synchronisation was fine.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


A Fairy Tale for Troubled Times (28:55)

     A “making of” in four sections, which can be accessed individually or through a “Play All” option. The section Love in an Age of War looks at how The Shape of Water is del Toro’s dream project, his vision of a fairy tale and a love story, a beauty and the beast story where humans are the beasts. Summoning a Water God covers the designing and construction of the amphibian suit, fitting it to the actor, lighting the scenes, the character of the amphibian man. Shape, Form and Function covers the design and construction of the sets, the costume design, the look of the film, the colour palate. Aquatic Melodies is the composing and recording of the score. All sections feature extensive on-set footage, concept drawings, sketches and comments from many of those involved including Guillermo del Toro, cast members Sally Hawkins, Doug Jones, Michael Shannon, Michael Stuhlbarg, Octavia Spencer, David Hewlett and Richard Jenkins, the producer, creature designers, visual effects supervisor, production designer, costume designer, DP Dan Laustsen and composer Alexandre Desplat.

Anatomy of a Scene: Prologue (3:14)

     Using film clips and on-set footage of the shooting of the prologue sequence, storyboards and pre-vis Del Toro explains what he wanted to do with this opening scene.

Anatomy of a Scene: The Dance (4:50)

     Again with film and on-set footage, Del Toro explains what he was doing. He obviously enjoyed this dance sequence immensely!

Shaping the Waves: A Conversation with James Jean (5:50)

     Showing examples of his artwork, artist James Jean talks about the development of the movie poster.

Guillermo del Toro’s Master Class (13:27)

     Del Toro and a number of the technical crew of the film, including effects supervisor and co-creature designer Shane Mahan, director of photography Dan Laustsen, visual effects supervisor Dennis Berardi, costume designer Luis Sequeira and production designer Paul Austerberry front an audience in Los Angeles and, accompanied by film clips and on-set footage, talk about the development and creation of the creature, the lighting, effects, practical and CGI, costumes and the bathroom set. Worthwhile.

Theatrical Trailers (6:55)

     Three quite different film trailers; there is a play all option.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The US Region A Blu-ray of The Shape of Water has the same extras but far less language and subtitle options.


     Del Toro is a consummate story teller and filmmaker and I enjoy his films a lot. But when I saw this film at the theatre I came away a little disenchanted; viewing the Blu-ray I did appreciate the film more. It is visually stunning, but I do feel that del Toro tries to do too much with the material and that the story and production design stifled the characters. Others, I know, will disagree; the film did after all win the best picture Oscar!

     The video and the audio are excellent. The extras are worthwhile although on many of his other films del Toro has provided a commentary, which would have been interesting.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Monday, March 25, 2019
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

Other Reviews NONE
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R4 v R1 - Anonymous