The Librarian’s Cellar: At the Cinema – The Shape of Water

The story goes that at the 2014 Golden Globes awards, Guillermo Del Toro bumped into Sally Hawkins, sweeping her off her feet as he told her that he was writing a movie for her, “You fall in love with a fish man!” he added. Well, true or not, Sally’s character, Elisa, does indeed fall in love with a creature from the deep in this fantastical tale and thriller (of sorts!). With a stellar cast that also includes Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer and Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water is captivating, romantic and made wonderful by the remarkable performances from the cast. As you would expect from Del Toro, the production design is spectacular, and there are magical layers to the character ‘Elisa’  a young lady with no apparent family, who does not speak, yet can communicate with more articulation and humanity than any of the characters in her world. While it does not have the depth and darkness of Pan’s Labyrinth or The Devil’s Backbone, this film is a delightful fairytale for adults, worthy of the Oscar accolades it has received, and one I will watch again and again.

The Librarian’s Cellar: At the Cinema: Crimson Peak

This Hallowe’en, I entered the labyrinth of Allerdale Hall…

If you, like me, love movies like Rebecca, The Turn of the Screw, The Haunting and The Woman in Black, and if you enjoy the tradition of Hammer House of Horrors – romance, murder, good old-fashioned melodrama and all sprinkled with a touch of the supernatural, you will love Crimson Peak. Guillermo del Toro, master of blending the undead with the beautiful and the grotesque, has created a stunningly visual feast for what is essentially, a ghost story in the traditional gothic style.

All of the luscious elements are there; Edith (Mia Wasikowska), intelligent, sensitive, an aspiring writer attempting to make her way in a masculine-driven culture of the Victorian era. Living with her beloved, and devoted father, Carter (Jim Beaver), Edith also has a supernatural gift – since the death of her mother when she was a child, Edith can see ghosts. Enter, Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) and Edith’s world changes forever.

No spoilers here – but as Edith, grieving the unexpected death of her father and protector, is swept up in her romance with Thomas, there are two more characters in the mix: Lucille (Jessica Chastain),the stunningly beautiful and strong-willed sister of Thomas, and Allerdale Hall, the house, a crumbling, secluded mass of decay – while the snows of winter creep in, and the bleeding red clay oozes from its depths and fissures, it is the spine of the story in all its seductive feast of peculiarities and secrets.

I had issues with only a couple of elements of the film – mostly to do with exposition devices that where wholly unnecessary – when Edith finds the gramophone and cyclinders that reveal the fate of the ghosts she is seeing – and when Edith’s previous love interest, family friend, Dr Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam) arrives, with a newspaper clipping that he gives to Edith as he recounts the past of Thomas and Lucille in their presence – a little hokey – though all is forgiven because the film is luxurious escapism at its best, and so, so pleasing to the senses.

The palette is sumptuous and richly layered to accentuate the personality and traits of the characters, ornate and strange, with rich colour splashes of velvet, silk and bejewelled finery that you would expect from such a gothic feast. For insight on the production design, check out The Art of Darkness

And the ending is satisfying in the depiction of Edith and Lucille as they battle it out…it’s not only Edith now who believes in ghosts.

One to watch, and watch again. Official Trailer here.