featured, sex

The Shape of Woman

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Guillermo Del Toro’s wonderfully crafted 2017 film The Shape of Water is a stunning piece of female empowerment. Looking at the images, the sheer understanding of the feminine mentality and sexuality, is an experience of a lifetime. The audience is left with a new idea of what a consensual sexual and romantic relationship is made up of. The flawless fairytale of a monster and woman has been woven many times, but this takes the cake on exploring human elements that are often lost in modern day romance.

The main character in the movie is Elisa Esposito who is normal mute woman who works in a government research facility as a cleaner in the early1960’s in Baltimore. Her chipper demeanor is expressed through the montage of her every day life during the first 15 minutes of the movie. During this montage she shines her shoes, gets lunch ready, and masturbates- which is played off as a normal part of her routine. Del Toro’s normalized approach to Elisa’s self love isn’t unsettling but takes the act and places the power back into the female rather than making it overtly sexualized for a male gaze. It is just something she does in the morning; it wasn’t used as a punch line. The normalizing of her masturbating is an eye opening experience because it wasn’t romanticized or lingered on but makes the act just as routine as brushing her teeth. The fact that something so taboo to show in film is a trivial element in the story is a fascinating approach.

As the story unfolds, a creature is sent to the facility that is alarmingly attractive and semi-humanoid. This “Asset” is presumably male and she is intrigued by the monster. The celebration of her own body is cemented when she is united with the creature. At first, in her own bathtub, the creature touches her and she is repelled- scared of her own intimacy since she has been alone all these years. She then returns and disrobes in front of the creature, taking back her previously scared actions. She consents to being physically intimate with the creature this time instead of recoiling in fear. The level of intimacy between the two of them, even in their short time on screen together, is palpable. The audience wishes for her to be comfortable and we are coaxing her all the way. Nudity itself in the film isn’t shown as something to be ashamed of. During the beginning of the film, she disrobes to take her everyday bath and masturbates. This foils the constant nudity of the Asset which represents that the body is not an object or something to be shamed.

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A moment that stands out more than any other in the movie is when she floods her own bathroom to completely be with the Asset. They dance submerged together in the water and have a magical sexual encounter. This moment is frozen in time when Giles, her neighbor, opens the door to find them in an embrace- her eyes piercing and feral but sweet and soft. He decides to sketch that moment and the paper represents the solidity of their love within reality. This is pivotal because it is a physical manifestation of her sexual energy.

Image result for the shape of water

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Elisa is a mute character but she isn’t stereotyped as coy or shy. She understands her body and her needs as a sexual being. This movie also has encouraged myself to be more familiar with my own body and myself as a sexual person. I draw feminine energy from Elisa’s experiences with the Asset to guide me in my spiritual exploration.

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