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Guillermo del Toro's upcoming film, The Shape of Water, is already receiving some of the best reviews of his career, and it has garnered more than a bit of Oscar buzz during its festival run. The fairy tale monster movie looks like the kind of imaginative film that only Guillermo del Toro would or even could make. But, despite the finished product being something the visionary filmmaker is proud of (he even called it his favorite film), the journey to create it was hardly painless. Here's how he recalled the process:
It was a terrible filmmaking experience. Very difficult, very difficult. We crammed $60 or $70 million dollars of budget into a movie that had only $19.5. But we wanted it to look enormous. So it demanded huge sacrifices. It doesn't show in the movie. The movie's gorgeous, expansive, poetic. But making it was very, very hard.
This is a common struggle for filmmakers whose vision exceeds their resources. An imagination as brilliant and inventive as Guillermo del Toro's is constrained only by the limits of technology and business realities. So while the film didn't have the budget that he would have liked, it is good to hear that he feels they made it work and realized the enormous look he was going for. Necessity is the mother of invention, and limited budgets can breed great, creative filmmaking, but that doesn't make it easy. We may not see the compromises on the screen and may never know the sacrifices that were made to bring it to life. At least here, based on Guillermo del Toro's comments to Yahoo, it appears that the juice was worth the squeeze and The Shape of Water is something truly special.
Guillermo del Toro is a beloved filmmaker who knows better than most how financial considerations can hinder passion projects and artistic ambition. This is why he believes in choosing his projects wisely, so much so that he is taking a year off from directing to plan his next move. His Hollywood movies have never been as well received as his Spanish-language films, and when he's been given big-budget, blockbuster type opportunities, they've never quite hit with audiences the way you might hope or expect. While his films contain the trappings of blockbuster filmmaking, fantasy, sci-fi, fantastic creatures, etc, his storytelling often subverts expectations and is too complex to be considered a true four-quadrant movie. The Shape of Water looks like he will have finally created a smaller, more intimate movie that comes straight from his imagination to the screen and matches the critical reception of Pan's Labyrinth.
Here's hoping that audiences respond to The Shape of Water and when Guillermo del Toro returns to directing, he will be given a budget to match his imagination. The Shape of Water hits theaters on December 8, and look through our 2017 premiere guide to find out when the year's other remaining movies will be released.