Falling for the Amphibian Man: Fantasy, Otherness, and Auteurism in del Toro’s The Shape of Water

Author: Alberta Natasia Adji, Edith Cowan University, Australia
Email: aadji@our.ecu.edu.au
Published: August 01, 2019

Citation: Adji, A. N. (2019). Falling for the Amphibian Man: Fantasy, Otherness, and Auteurism in del Toro’s The Shape of Water. IAFOR Journal of Media, Communication & Film, 6(1). https://doi.org/10.22492/ijmcf.6.1.03


Guillermo del Toro’s reputation as one of the world’s most esteemed filmmakers builds on fairy tale and horror-inspired films featuring monsters, such as Hellboy (2004) and Pan’s Labyrinth (2006). Not only is del Toro’s obsession with the fantasy genre often emphasized, it also incorporates the theme of embracing otherness, which is demonstrated through the allegory of monstrous entities in most of his works. As a Mexican director, del Toro strives to insert his status as “the other” in his movies. This article addresses Guillermo del Toro’s 2017 Oscar-winning film, The Shape of Water, through auteur theory with references to fantasy film principles. In a range of aspects, from visual style to its rooted themes, del Toro’s films make use of a distinctive set of features with dark green colour, special effects makeup, as well as the theme of resistance against oppression and marginalisation. Using The Shape of Water as a case study, the argument is that the film serves as a critique as well as a defiance against the widespread issues of rising bigoted slurs, immigration bans and racial resentment in the United States, which have occurred ever since the victory of President Donald Trump in early 2017. Indeed, del Toro’s triumphs at the 90th Academy Awards have solidified the importance of fantasy films as counter-narratives.


Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water, fantasy, otherness, auteurism