Guillermo del Toro’s dark fairy tale The Shape of Water won the coveted Golden Lion award for best film at the Venice Film Festival on Saturday.
The film, that see a mute cleaner falling in love with a mysterious aquatic creature, beat contenders such as George Clooney’s Suburbicon, and Alexander Panye’s Downsizing (weirdly, both films star Matt Damon) at the end of the 10-day, star-studded movie marathon that critics have said is almost on par with the revered Cannes film festival.
Director del Toro said of the win, “As a Mexican, I want to say this is a first for a Mexican storyteller, so I want to dedicate and give the prize to every young Mexican filmmaker or Latin American filmmaker that is dreaming to do something in the fantastic genre, as a fairy tale, as a parable, and is faced with a lot of people saying it can’t be done. It can.”
The runner-up Grand Jury prize went to Israeli director Samuel Maoz for his family tragedy Foxtrot, while French director Xavier Legrand received best director for drama Jusqu’a la Garde (Custody).
The award ceremony brought down the curtain on the Venice festival, which is seen by many in the industry as the launch pad for awards season.
Ariston Anderson, a film critic with The Hollywood Reporter said that this win could likely lead to a big win at the Academy Awards for Guillermo del Toro: “While there’s no sure bet at this stage, there couldn’t be a better start for del Toro’s road to Oscar gold. And it will be very interesting to see what happens in March at the Academy Awards if he can continue the trend of Venice picking Oscar winners.”
And while the Venice festival’s 74th year was full of high quality pictures, Anderson explained that critics felt that there was no clear outstanding movie: “My thoughts after having viewed the lineup are the same – a lot of strong Oscar contenders but no clear-cut winner, unfortunately, as we has in previous years at the festival.”