Choose love over fear, says The Shape Of Water director del Toro

Mexican director Guillermo del Toro's fantasy drama The Shape Of Water is an appeal to embrace differences.

On the surface, it is a fairy tale in which a mute cleaner in a government laboratory falls in love with an aquatic creature facing dissection there, but as with Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth, it's a fantastical metaphor for something much bigger.

"It's a very political, very fabulistic fairy tale about love and coming together... about how we are told to stay apart for stupid reasons when we are all together," said del Toro, 52.

Opening here Feb 1, the movie stars British actress Sally Hawkins as Elisa, the protagonist whose life changes when she befriends Amphibian Man (Doug Jones), which has been captured by government scientists to study its breathing patterns.

Having won the Golden Lion at the Venice International Film Festival and Best Director at the Golden Globe Awards, The Shape Of Water features a fantastical creature - a cross between human and fish with glowing spots on its skin - to point to "the otherness" people so often reject, del Toro said.

But the notion of otherness is evoked through other characters as well, be it Elisa's African American friend (Octavia Spencer) or her secretly gay neighbour (Richard Jenkins).

"I'm Mexican and I know what it is to be looked at as the 'other'," del Toro said.

"The creature represents something that can be either divine or debased according to who looks at it."

Michael Shannon stars as Colonel Strickland, a ruthless government agent willing to cut the creature into pieces, if that is what he is ordered to do.

"He doesn't see anyone because his arrogance is so big," del Toro said. "It speaks about the issue we have today, that choosing fear over love is a disaster."

The creature represents something that can be either divine or debased according to who looks at it. Director guillermo del Toro

The film is set in 1960s America but del Toro, who, aside from Pan's Labyrinth, is famous for movies such as The Devil's Backbone, Hellboy and Pacific Rim, said the tale is relevant today.

"It's so hard to talk about emotions these days... and talk about love, but it's still the strongest force in the universe. The Beatles and Jesus cannot be wrong." - REUTERS