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Movies & TV

30th Jan 2018

The Shape Of Water has been accused of ripping off not one but TWO different movies

Rory Cashin

Coincidence, or too similar to be an accident?

In the upcoming Academy Awards, no other movie has as many nominations as The Shape Of Water.

A masterfully told fantasy romantic drama with amazing performances by Sally Hawkins (who is up for Best Actress), Michael Shannon (Best Supporting Actor), Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer (Best Supporting Actress), Doug Jones and Michael Stuhlbarg.

Also among the movie’s 13 nominations are Best Cinematography, Best Score, Best Editing, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Director and Best Picture.

It is a beautiful piece of cinematic art that absolutely deserves to be seen by as many people as possible.

Clip via FoxSearchlight

However, one issue that some people are taking issue with lately, is the fact that the movie’s director and co-writer Guillermo Del Toro has also been nominated for Best Original Screenplay, as more than one source has come forward since the movie’s debut to claim that it very clearly “borrows” from their works.

Admittedly, Del Toro has been all too honest that he has been primarily influenced by the 1954 monster movie classic The Creature From The Black Lagoon, telling Variety that he wanted to shift away from the scary aspects and focus more on the burgeoning feelings between the leads: “The movie is about love. That’s the one force we’re really afraid to talk about now.”

But there is a big difference between taking influence, and then taking the entire premise.

In 2015, student Marc S. Nollkaemper released a 13-minute short film titled The Space Between Us (not to be confused with that terrible teen romance about the first boy born on Mars).

It tells the story of a woman working in a secret research facility who slowly falls in love with a fish creature kept there, and the tone, setting, and general look of the short are very similar to The Shape Of Water.

You can check out the short right here:

Clip via The CGBros

It raised a lot of eyebrows at the time, but the Netherlands Film Academy – who produced the short film – eventually released a statement saying they believed there was no link.

“After recently screening The Shape of Water and following conversations that took place in a very constructive and friendly atmosphere, The Netherlands Film Academy believes that both The Shape of Water and our short, The Space Between Us, have their own very different identities,” the statement read.

“They have separate timelines of development and are not in any conceivable way interlinked or related. The students and The Space Between Us team were very excited and grateful to have the opportunity to actively discuss the creative inspirations of both films in a personal conversation with Mr. Del Toro.

“We cordially discussed our films and our common roots in mythology and the fantastic (and some themes which Mr. Del Toro has previously dwelled on Hellboy I and II). We have learned a lot from the contact with an extremely gifted and creative filmmaker and wish The Shape of Water continued success.”

However, this isn’t the only thing that Del Toro is claimed to have potentially borrowed whole segments of his movie’s story from.

David Zindel, the son of late Pulitzer-winning theater scribe Paul Zindel, told The Guardian that he believes Del Toro clearly plagiarised his father’s 1969 play Let Me Hear You Whisper, which was then turned into a TV movie.

Zindel told the paper: “We are shocked that a major studio could make a film so obviously derived from my late father’s work without anyone recognising it and coming to us for the rights.”

Once again, the similarities are there to be found: both of the stories involve a woman who works the night shift as a cleaner in a laboratory and develops a relationship with a mysterious aquatic creature that is the subject of secret military experiments.

Both of the leading women dance with mops to a love song in front of the creature’s water tank. And both of the women try to sneak it out to sea in a laundry cart when they discover the lab plans to kill the creature.

The differences are there too, as in Whisper’s case the creature is a dolphin capable of communication, while in Water, the leading lady is incapable of speech.

However, the accusation have led to 20th Century Fox releasing a statement themselves, claiming:

“Mr Del Toro has had a 25 year career during which he has made 10 feature films and has always been very open about acknowledging his influences. If the Zindel family has questions about this original work we welcome a conversation with them.”

This is far from the first time a major Hollywood production has been accused of simply ripping off a lesser known movie: think of The Hunger Games and Battle Royale, or The Fast And The Furious and Point Break, or the countless movies that could easily be “based on” any number of Twilight Zone episodes.

But with almost every film this year feeling some amount of political backlash in one form or another, it would be a shame if The Shape Of Water lost some of its appeal and support due to what could amount to little more than a big coincidence?

Or is it…?

Decide for yourself when The Shape Of Waters arrives in cinemas here from Friday 14 February.

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