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The Shape Of Water by Alexandre Desplat (Review)

posted Mar 9, 2018, 1:37 PM by Kaya Savas

The Shape Of Water brought Alexandre Desplat his second Oscar at this year’s Academy Awards, and this review is coming after that win. Now, The Shape Of Water was a beautiful film with a score that added much to make the film feel like this darkly romantic fairytale. The way Desplat approached the score worked really well overall to help Guillermo Del Toro execute his vision.

Our main character is Elisa Esposito played brilliantly by Sally Hawkins and she is mute in this film, in fact our creature is also void of speaking. So, much of the emotion doesn’t come from spoken language for these characters, it’s all about the acting and of course the music. Desplat’s score utilizes flutes to create an airy and floaty world of water. The French-inspired stylings for the more upbeat opening that pretty much takes us into Elisa’s head use flutes to give a floating feeling. When we go into the depths of the research facility, the music gets a bit more ominous but we still have flutes playing a huge part of that. The music that accompanies these more darker and mysterious moments, as well as the antagonist played by Michael Shannon, does a great job of creating that eerie atmosphere. In fact this is where the score shines the most. Desplat’s ability to create this sense of darkness with just a hint of romanticism still baked in is the heart of this film.

The score works rather effortlessly in providing a tone and feel for the movie. I think many people who have played the video game BioShock may see some similarities in style here. Desplat’s score is definitely in no way like Garry Schyman’s, but the use of some old timey songs to give this a retro feel and the underwater world of Rapture definitely feels a lot like the production design of The Shape Of Water. The Shape Of Water embraces French music too to add to the romance of the story and for Sally Hawkin’s character. At times that works, but it may lay on the French stylings a bit too thick at times. So much so we forget this film takes place in Baltimore. I’m from Maryland and I forgot this movie is supposed to take place in Baltimore. And yes Desplat is from France, but that doesn’t mean the accordion is used in every piece of music he writes. In this case it almost feels like Del Toro hired Desplat to add that French touch, but at times I wanted the music to veer away from it because it felt a bit out of place.

Alexandre Desplat composed a really wonderful score here. While there are moments that don’t make the music flow and connect cohesively as well as they should, the end result is a beautifully unique sound for a beautifully unique fairytale love story. There’s secret government labs, there’s a very wet and metallic production design, characters that pull you in and feel part of this world, and a score that makes the story come to life.