Guillermo Del Toro, the director of the critically acclaimed film, The Shape of Water, is in some hot water, as his film is facing a number of plagiarism accusations. Given the film’s multiple Academy Award nominations, the idea that the film is in any way unoriginal has emboldened the outcry against it.
One of the works the film has been accused of plagiarizing is a short by a Dutch student filmmaker, called The Space Between Us. A synopsis from the film’s YouTube account reads: “In a post-nuclear future, mankind tries to survive with the help of oxygen masks. High up in the mountains they have built a research centre in search of gills suited for mankind, so they can breathe freely once again and start a new life under water. Humble cleaner Juliette has her loyalties tested when she falls for Adam, a captive merman whose gills are mankind's last hope for survival.” So while, there are some definite thematic overlaps, they’ve been largely dismissed as coincidental. The short’s producers have even spoken to Del Toro about the matter and determined that any similarities were accidental in nature.
However, the similarities to Paul Zindel’s 1969 play Let Me Hear You Whisper are a lot more suspect to some. The play and Shape of Water are basically about the same thing. In the former, the female protagonist falls in love with a dolphin that is being experimented on. In Del Toro’s movie she falls in love with a fish-man who’s being experimented on. In the play, the woman is deeply introverted, whereas in Del Toro’s film, she’s mute. Both female characters develop relationships with their respective creatures, and both try to free them.
The playwright’s family is up in arms about the glaring similarities. Zindel’s son said he was “shocked” by them. Meanwhile, the studio behind the film, Fox Searchlight, remains firm on their claim that director Del Toro had zero knowledge about the play. Further, as io9 reports, the idea behind the film was allegedly invented by Daniel Kraus, Del Toro’s friend and author of the The Shape of Water novel, from which the film was adapted.
Whatever, y’all. My favorite aquatic creature movie is still Splash.