Friday, July 21, 2017

TRAILER: The Shape Of Water

PLEASE WATCH THE TRAILER BELOW FIRST AND THEN COME BACK AND READ THIS CAPTION, because it's not going to make sense unless you know what the film is about. Who is the mute woman Eliza in the film? She is Eliza Doolittle from the 1964 George Cukor classic My Fair Lady with Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison.  In the film, Eliza (hepburn) is a poor flower girl, and she has an obnoxious accent and exceedingly poor grammar; she goes to Professor Higgins (Harrison) for lessons so she can speak properly and attain better employment for herself; in the process, she and Higgins fall in love and Eliza advances in society and Higgins advances in the realm of human emotions. In The Shape Of Water, we can see how del Toro has divided Harrison's character of Higgins into two different characters to examine Higgins' own duel motivations for helping Eliza in My Fair Lady: Higgins is both the "professor" character who we hear speaking at the very start of the trailer (I believe he's portrayed by Nick Searcy, but I might be wrong about that, his character isn't listed on the IMDB casting for The Shape Of Water), and see again later as he translates Eliza's sign language, and then Higgins' is also Strickland (Michael Shannon) the one who is a scientist and doesn't believe in what really makes us human. So, in the opening lines of the film, we hear the words describing Eliza as "the princess without voice," and that refers to Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady when her big debut is at a fancy ball and, because her speech has become so impeccable, she is mistaken for a princess, but in a way, it's not Eliza Doolittle's voice, it's Higgins' voice he has given her. The big question is, then: why does del Toro want to draw people's attention to the film My Fair Lady and the events of 1963, when the film takes place? Because in American politics today, feminists claim that men have taken away the voice of women, that men have silenced women and held them back from advancing in society. As a woman myself, I know nothing could be further from the truth: every single man in my life, from ALL of my male professors, to the men in my family and social circles, have wanted nothing but my total success and complete happiness; if anyone was holding me back, it was my very own self. I will stand by that until the day that I die. Anyway, we have Eliza, the woman literally, with no voice, but she's not just a woman, she is a princess; why? Because of the inherent dignity of women with which God created us. In the trailer, we see Strickland telling Eliza, "The Lord created us in His image. You don't think the Lord looks like that, do you?" but the physical appearance of humans isn't what is being discussed, rather, the image of God within our souls and our capacity to love and to sacrifice for love, that is the image of God in which we were created. Without someone to love, we are, just like Eliza, a little cleaning woman, with no voice. But when we have that "other," our dignity becomes complete.
(UPDATED: If you are wondering about the beautiful French song in the trailer, it's La Javanaise by jazz and blues singer-songwriter Madeleine Peyroux and it is available on iTunes.  I originally posted this at 4 am and forgot some points about the creature, so it's complete now, sorry!) If a film maker wanted to use just three words to get me to be interested in a film, all they would have to say is, "Guillermo del Toro," and I would be hooked: Pan's Labyrinth, Crimson Peak, Pacific Rim and his invaluable contributions to The Hobbit trilogy are some of the reasons I am smitten with anything del Toro chooses to dedicate his energy and creativity to. In other words, I don't doubt him, and this trailer for his latest creation certainly is worthy of his formidable intellectual powers.
Oh, Guillermo, how do I love thee?
Let me count the ways,....
Water, shall be first.
There are three manifestations of water as a symbol (along with the moon and dogs, water is one of the most complicated and organic of all symbols, and I mean "complicated," why? Because it's essential for life: of all the different cultures through history who have existed, all of them have depended upon water for survival, therefore, water itself can be about survival, and each artist infuses their ideas of what is necessary for life into their symbolism of what water means, or, if you will, what the "shape of water" is; but here are some simplified paths for us to take): water takes on many forms, complicating its identity even further (liquid, vapor [fog or clouds] and solid) but first is the liquid form.
If this isn't a magical image, I don't know what is. Let's just start by listing the symbols: water, sleeping, the lamp and the light shining upon her, the color blue, the color green, the books on the shelf and the doorway through which we pass. And those are just the ones I am seeing off the top of my head. Okay, the water, we know, is the state of reflection, but there is more to this reflection, because we are beneath the surface of the water, so this is "deep reflection," but that's not all, folks: there is the light. There is the light from the lamp (a man-made light source) and then there is the light coming down upon her from above, like it's divine light. Thirdly, there is the "studied light" of the developed intellect symbolized by the books on the shelf in the background. What does light symbolize? Illumination. That three types of light are present (the divine and man-made) suggests that Eliza has a natural intelligence to her and because she makes the most of her natural intelligence by studying and advancing her intellect, she has been rewarded with extra Light from above, she has a spiritual insight into her self and others. Eliza sleeps; why? She has not yet been awakened to fulfill her calling in life. As Napoleon said, "Let her sleep, for when she wakes, she will move mountains," and that mountain Eliza will move is the mountain of sin symbolized by Strickland. But this time of sleep is essential for Eliza's formation; why? So that when her moment comes, she will know it. That's why we pass through the door, the door in Eliza's world is opening to opportunity and the purpose for which she was created. That's why we see so much blue in the image: blue is the color of sadness and wisdom, so Eliza has learned painful lessons through her life of silence, her life of contemplation, but the green that is there is for her hope, that something will happen, something will change. What is going to happen? The bed symbolizes death, because a bed is the forerunner of our coffin, where we "sleep" after life, awaiting the Final Judgement. So, (and this is very common) sleeping and death are the state of souls until they come into their purpose, their calling; "Be still and know that I am the Lord," God said in Psalms 46:10, because it's only when we are not busy with our life and our world that we can be still and come to understand that HE is God. And we will not be called into our purpose until we have learned that lesson. 
When water is water,  it relates that the character(s) is in the first stage of reflection, like Narcissus, because you see only what is on the surface; when water becomes vaporized, it demonstrates that the character is trying to see deeper within themselves, but they are having a difficult time discerning, things are blurry (it's hard to see in the fog, or with your head in the clouds) so either the character hides something from themselves (a truth they don't want to face) or the character hasn't come to a full understanding of what has happened or will happen, leading to the third stage of contemplation and snow.
The feet. Shoes. These are important symbols for characters, as we well know, dear reader. What is a part of Eliza's everyday routine? Polishing and brushing her shoes, slipping into her shoes, and walking to work. Our feet symbolize our will, because our feet take us where we want to go the way our will directs our lives to where we want to go and to get what we want. So, in the image at the top, we see Eliza brushing her shoe with a green brush; green, we know, is either the color of hope, as in spring and rebirth and new life, or it's the color of something that has gone rotten, like the moldy green stuff growing in forgotten recycled plastic butter containers in your fridge that you used for leftovers. With Eliza, we know it's hope (her sweater is also a dark green color, the headband in her hair and the coat she wears to work, are all green, because she is the symbol of someone who lives in hope) so each day she gives herself hope, and it's in the light of hope that Eliza walks, even though her shoes are rather plain, they are heels, i.e., shoes that women wear, so it's a particularly feminine hope that she has, something that will effect her as a woman (not specifically as an American, or a Christian or atheist, or as a member of the communist party, etc., but as a woman).
On a slightly different note, but still on the same topic, the way the trailer sets up Eliza's life, from 0:15-0:30 (when the creature's hand meets her hand on the glass of the containment unit) is that of redundancy: Eliza goes through the same motions day, after day, after day, after day,.... that's redundancy, and it's a specific theory,... why? Because there is no "information" in redundancy, we don't learn anything new, there's nothing breaking the mold of our expectations; in other words, Eliza's life is exactly the way we would expect it to be, and this is an important tool for artists, because it's by the vocabulary of the "redundant" that we see the problem with our own lives: because of the needs we have for our survival (not because we live in the modern world) our lives inevitably become redundant, and that's not what God intended for us: "I come that they may have life, and have it abundantly" Jesus tells us (John 10:10). Even though we will be allowed to have the redundant, so we know in humility what we are without God, God wants to give us more than the mere survival to which we are accustomed because only He can give it to us, only He knows what the desires of your heart are, because He is the one who put them there, to fulfill and multiply at the right time. A good illustration is the parting of the Red Sea: when God delivered Israel, he led them from the land of slavery, through the waters of salvation, by doing that which only God could do, and in your own life, that has happened, or it will happen. Now we are ready to discuss the bottom image.
In the bottom scene, it appears that she and the creature kiss beneath the water, with that beautiful light streaming down upon them, Eliza in a red coat and a special light around her feet,... almost like there is a halo around her feet, and one of the shoes coming off,... we haven't yet discussed who the creature is, but we will in the next caption, but suffice to say, this is what Eliza was created for; how can we tell? She's in "deep water," she's beneath the surface, so there is a union that is "baptized" (I know, the "guy" is a "creature" but trust me just for a moment longer, it will all make sense) and so, we can even venture to say that this union is happening on the level of the soul, because there is the deep water and the light shining upon them, with the emphasis upon her will (the feet). Obviously, a shoe has just dropped from her feet, and this validates the sacramental nature of the moment we see, because where else have we seen in the Bible someone wearing only one shoe where they were? Joshua right before the fall of Jericho, when the angel comes announcing he is commander of the Lord's host (because some think it's awkward, many modern translators say that Joshua was commanded to take off both sandals, but my Hebrew Old Testament professor made a big deal that it was only one shoe Joshua had to take off, whereas Moses had to take off both shoes; so was the ground on which Moses stood holier than the ground upon which Joshua stood? No, but the Lord wanted to completely unite Moses' will to His own Will, whereas with Joshua, the Lord wanted Joshua to keep his own will, because the Lord knew Joshua--just as Moses--was a precursor to Christ, and that would be separately established; we could go on, but we won't at this time). So, Joshua, takes off one shoe to show he's standing in a holy place, just before a battle, and that he's in the presence of the Lord, and that he still retains some of his own will (he has one shoe on, and our feet symbolize our will), but there is also the Will of God at work (the removed shoe signifying the holy ground). This kiss is "the breath of life," the means by which God imparts to us the Holy Spirit and Life itself (God blew onto Adam from God's own mouth to instill life in him, and a bride and groom kiss at their wedding to breathe new life into each other), and this kiss will prepare Eliza for the battle she is about to wage against Strickland for the life of the creature.
In its solid form, water-as-snow symbolizes the thoughts-as-tangible-expression and now is the time for healing. A character has worked their way through the stages of contemplation, and have come to the full realization of what they were supposed to discover and now, having discovered whatever it was, they can heal, just as the land heals during winter from the summer harvests and crops, and the snow covering the ground protects the resting soil and landscape (and then the process begins again with another topic for discovery); so, where does that put Eliza in The Shape Of Water?
In deep water.
Hands symbolize our honor, because it's when we want to give our word to someone that we "shake hands" on it, so our hands are a sign of our genuineness, our sincerity. In the top image, it's with her hand that Eliza touches the glass (symbol of reflection) and looks into the water (another symbol of reflection, and this water has a definite green tint to it, a sign of hope), and then the creature's hand comes up to "meet" her hand; why? He's recognizing her genuineness, that she is interested in him, not interested in the science experiment that the scientists are trying to turn him into. There is another image in the trailer, of Eliza looking through the bus window with rain drops, and tracing her fingers along the glass as the droplets magically flow to follow her motions: the glass and water drops both denote, again, reflection, and her hand doing the tracing on the glass is the sign that she is being genuine in her interest, not just curious. Now, look at the second image; Strickland has a bandage on his left hand. The "left" hand/arm is usually seen as a sign of evil (no, really, I'm not making this up for political expedience against Liberals, this is true, because most people in history have been right-handed) and Strickland has his hand bandaged, meaning, he has wounded his honor, he has wounded his ability to be sincere/genuine, in some degree; we certainly don't see him being nice. That's going to be an important detail in the film. In the bottom image, we see the Creature's bloody hand-print on the movie poster; the Creature has traded his appetite for love with Eliza (the color red) for an appetite for wrath and bloodshed. I don't know what has happened, but I'm pretty confident that Eliza will be the only one who can save him, in more ways than one.  
Remember all the learning and enlightenment symbols we see in Eliza's bedroom (enumerated in the caption about her bedroom)? The light, the books, the lamp, her state of sleeping to receive spiritual nourishment,....Wise, in a word, is how we can describe Eliza, and that is a reflection of  her soul, because it is within the heart that our wisdom is kept (as opposed to our head, where mere knowledge is kept) and it's within the soul that wisdom is manifested (as purity and strength, because that is what wisdom imparts). But the creature has to have a similar degree of wisdom to be capable of meeting Eliza in this depth of sacramental unity we see them in, and so this leads us to he overwhelming question:WHO IS THE CREATURE?
Just as the opening poster caption for this post illustrates how the film incorporates My Fair Lady, and Strickland (Shannon) and the Professor guy (probably Nick Searcy) are both versions of Professor Higgins (Rex Harrison) so, too, are the Professor guy and Strickland both the creature we see in The Shape Of Water; why? It's a part of themselves they are both trying to drown because society has told them to do so.
It's quite simple, because all the films of the 1950s were saying the exact same thing, rather like all the horror-slasher films of the 1980s: if you aren't married, you shouldn't be having sex! Sex kills you because adultery kills your soul by feeding your animal appetites, and those animal appetites kill the soul. The Creature From the Black Lagoon is no exception. In the story, Dr. David Reed has a girlfriend, Kay Lawrence; they are not married, but most likely having sexual relations; this means the Creature is a psychoanalytic double for Reed ("reed" being a phallic symbol and the invocation of "David" is that of "King David," who had an adulterous affair with Bathsheba) and that is why Reed has to kill the Creature: Reed has to overcome his own animal appetites for Kay in order to love her properly, because Kay--like Eliza in The Shape Of Water--is a princess, the daughter of God, and Reed is called to be the son of God, not some serpentine creature turning a princess into a whore.
So, if the creature is a white man in The Shape Of Water, why resort to an old film no one has seen, where the same creature is the villain? That's an excellent question. We know that in The Creature From the Black Lagoon, there is a sexual relationship between David Reed and Kay Lawrence, and the creature symbolizes that and what using Kay for sex has done to David; today, however, liberals want men to have sex only with other men and women to have sex only with other women, in other words, everyone to be gay. David Reed, in his form as the creature, illustrates his reptilian qualities, i.e., the state of his soul in Original Sin (his soul without God's Grace), and what Grace there is within his soul is being eroded by the complicity to commit mortal sin; in other words, as David Reed willingly separates his soul from the Face of God, David's own face becomes separated from God and the beauty that God is, leading David to look like a deformed monster, i.e., the creature. Now, in The Shape Of Water, del Toro appears to be arguing that all men have degenerated in this day and age to becoming the creature we see David Reed as in The Creature From the Black Lagoon, because of the success of socialism and communism to take over the world by destabilizing religion and morality (The Shape Of Water takes place in 1963, the height of the Cold War, and at about the same time that The Man From UNCLE takes place, so the socialism we will see in the film isn't about the Cold War in the 1960s, rather, about the "cold war" taking place in America today). Even though men have become these reptilian creatures, they kind of always have been, which is why God created woman, to be the bearer of "new life" for men, which is why we see Eliza giving the creature an egg, and teaching him how to say "Egg," because eggs symbolize new life, and in particular, women, because it's a female fertility symbol, so even though we might think of Eliza as being barren, or her world as being barren, she has all these eggs that she can give to the creature because she has been through so much spiritual training. And that's what the creature needs, and that's what men today need, women who are generous and full of life; while most men are going to be like the creature today, few women will be like Eliza and spiritually prepared and capable of fulfilling her purpose of being the "help mate" of man (helping him get to heaven) and therefore, having her own needs for love and purpose fulfilled as well (the role a man plays in loving and protecting a woman).  
Man.
Specifically, a white man.
At 2:02 in the trailer, very briefly, we see the Creature in the movie theater, standing and watching a film, which is most likely about killing him/his kind; why? Because hasn't that been what every pro-socialist film has been about lately? Wonder Woman, The Magnificent Seven, Logan, Pirates Of the Caribbean 5, Guardians Of the Galaxy Vol 2, etc., have all killed the white male leads because they are white, heterosexual males who are the power-holders in American society and have supposedly "oppressed" everyone else so that no one else could achieve anything, and this "creature" we see is the only one who can make Eliza happy; why? Love. It's with those same men that women still fall in love, still find a common language that we can share with each other, enjoy the same music together, share a little meal, and see one another the way God created us--with dignity and in His image for the capacity to love and sacrifice for that love--rather than how the world (i.e., liberals) tells us how to see each other and ourselves. This is the most old-fashioned kind of love story there is, a boy and a girl, who are outcasts until they find each other and love the other for what they are; only a man can give this to a woman and only a woman can give this to a man, because that is how "being complete" works.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner