Hidden Meanings Behind "The Shape of Water" Movie (Spoilers)
Reviewed by Joy Davis

Synopsis: "The Shape of Water" is a sci-fi, romance and drama.  In a secret government lab in Baltimore, a humanoid amphibian was being held captive.  He was captured by Colonel Strickland at a river in South America where the natives considered him a god.  Amphibian man was the government's "asset" to win the Space Race for the Americans against the Soviets.  Elisa Esposito, the lab's mute cleaning lady, was drawn to the creature.  Her attempts at luring him with cooked eggs to get acquainted led to a beautiful romance.  When she discovered that amphibian man will be vivisected, Elisa called on her friends to help him escape.  Little did they know that he was also wanted by the Soviets to be euthenized. 

Warning: Spoilers within the Presentation

A Retelling of Ancient Myths

Welcome to "Conscious Movie Reviews."  I'm your host Joy Davis and here to review "The Shape of Water," a sci-fi, romance and drama.  Special thanks to world renowned dream interpreter, Michael Sheridan, for sharing his insights about the film.

At a secret government lab in Baltimore, an amphibian man was held captive.  Considered an "asset" to the military, they wanted to exploit him for the Americans to win the Space Race against the Soviets.  Colonel Richard Strickland captured him at a river in South America - regarded by the local natives as a god.   

The director of the film, Guillermo del Toro, comes from Mexico that's steeped in ancient lore about sea creatures through the influence of Pre-Columbian culture to respect the being as a god in a mystical way and  a patron saint that can create miracles under Catholicism from the Spaniards.  Even the creature, in appearance, closely resembles the axolotl - an amphibian, indigenous to Mexico.       

Having a river creature from South America was a unique film choice because South Americans have a mythical belief about a humanoid amphibian that emerges from the Amazon once a  year to grab a young woman from a local village and then disappear again.    

Power in the Hands

When the amphibian man attacked Colonel Strickland by biting off his ring and pinkie fingers, Elisa Esposito, the mute cleaning lady, and fellow co-worker, Zelda Fuller, were made to clean up the bloody mess.  

Based on the dream teachings of Michael Sheridan, water is associated with the spiritual side.  The film's title, "The Shape of Water," suggests that the characters are on an individual journey of trying to define their spiritual nature.  Elisa was drawn to the creature's water world - a return to her spiritual roots.  

Hands often represent power.  Because Elisa used sign language, she held great power, as understood by the amphibian man.  He demonstrated at times, his powerful, God-like abilities to do hands-on healing.  And, by biting off Colonel Strickland's fingers, the creature showed him that he abuses his power, so they should be reduced. 

A Courtship with Eggs

Elisa was intrigued by the creature.  Despite his violent nature, she risked luring him with boiled eggs to get acquainted.  Over time, their courtship of dining and dancing the nights away, bonded them as a couple. 

Being a mute reflected Elisa's fear of being criticized and judged for expressing her truth that can push boundaries and make others uncomfortable.  When forced to be silent, you can draw intuitive messages from the silence within.  Elisa was able to see beyond the creature's deformities to intuit that he was a great being, deserving of love. 

Colonel Strickland was a slave to the societal "noise" that's full of distractions to only see the amphibian man as a monster.  Anytime we label someone in a negative way, we're really talking about ourselves - a part of us that needs unconditional acceptance.  We're only bothered by others what we don't like about ourselves.  So, Colonel Strickland was really referring to the darker part of his nature that's wildly chaotic, like a monster. 

Elisa lured with boiled eggs for courting purposes.  As the saying goes, "A way to a man's heart is through the stomach."  She was testing his appetite for her and symbolically suggesting that her eggs are ready to be fertilized, similar to how female fish lays her eggs, then leaves them out for the male to spray with his sperm.   

Oppressed & Disenfranchised

 She told Giles, the next door neighbor, about her secret affair with a creature.  He "came out of the closet" earlier to share his gay interests in a waiter at a nearby restaurant. 

As friends, they felt safe around each other, but like "fish out of water" in a conservative, predominately Christian society - disenfranchised for being a woman, disabled, and both wanting relationships that are sexually taboo.  

Elisa liked to imagine herself singing and dancing in a ballroom dress to beautiful music with her new suitor.  It represented inner freedom - to move and just be without any societal constraints placed on her.

Planning a Mission Impossible

Elisa witnessed the abuse towards her amphibian man by Colonel Strickland with a prod.  By orders from General Hoyt, the creature had to be vivisected - a brutally painful form of dissection done while an animal is kept alive.  She plotted his immediate escape, soliciting help from friends.  Coming to her aid was Dr. Hoffstetler, a Soviet agent posing as a scientist at the lab and sympathizer of her cause.  He was well aware of Elisa's romance with the creature from spying on them earlier.

The military's plan to dissect a god-like being revealed their fear of spiritual power and their own healing nature.   

Elisa's team executed their mission impossible plan.  The creature was secretly transported by Zelda within a laundry cart, then stowed in the getaway van, driven by Giles.  He slammed the vehicle into Colonel Strickland's teal-colored Cadillac, narrowly escaping. 

By purchasing a Cadillac, Colonel Strickland bought a status symbol for all to know that he joined the master class.  The teal color revealed his mindset that's selfish and egotistical.  When the car was smashed into, it was an outer message that he's damaged inside from not serving humanity.  He deserves his lowly position of being in servitude to the government as a military bounty hunter. 

Making Love to Amphibian Man

Elisa and Giles lived on the top floor of the Orpheum theatre that played a Biblical movie below.  They kept the amphibian man safe in a bathroom tub, filled with salt water and the water conditioning chemicals smuggled by Dr. Hoffstetler.  He would stay with them for a few days, then released at a canal that empties out to the sea.

Living upstairs relates to how Elisa is expanding into the spiritual realm.  The Orpheum theater below her apartment that played a Biblical movie, suggests that religious doctrine is beneath her.  She doesn't succumb to their strict beliefs.

Elisa sneaked into the bathroom at night to be with her amphibian man in a sexual way.  She let the water run-over, causing a flood.  Giles opened the door to find them intertwined in a loving embrace.

Symbolically, sexual union is more than the act, but about an intimate connection with yourself.  Elisa has embraced her own god-like nature that's represented by the creature. 

A Miracle for Giles

When Giles walked in to discover that his cat's head was bitten off, it startled amphibian man enough to slash him in the arm as he dashed out of the apartment.  It was up to Elisa to bring him back.  

Dream interpreter Michael Sheridan teaches that cats in a dream can relate to guilt.  Amphibian man conveniently ate Giles' guilt that was from the shame he placed on himself as a closeted gay man.

By touching Giles on his head and arm, he performed a hands-on healing for the wounds to disappear and gift him with a new crop of hair.  Like Samson of the Bible, he gained his personal power back.  

A Miracle for Elisa

Time was running out.  The creature's health was declining with each passing day.  He was wanted dead by both sides of the Cold War: dissection by Americans and euthanized by the Soviets.   

Under pressure to find Amphibian man for General Holt within 36 hours, Colonel Strickland tortured Dr. Hoffstetler for information, forcing him to give away the co-conspirators' names.  

At the canal, Colonel Strickland shot at Elisa and her lover to see them fall.  The creature came back to life as proof that he really is a god, brutally killing Strickland in the end.

The scene was a lesson in how you really can't kill your own shadow self.  Any struggle to defeat it by Strickland only consumed what was left of his good nature to become the real monster.    

Amphibian man grabbed Elisa to head underwater, kissing her as they floated to the depths below.  Instead of the usual  scars on her neck, they were replaced by gills.  It was a miracle.


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