The Shape Of Water might be the Academy’s favorite flick of the year, but that hasn’t erased the accusations of plagiarism that have plagued Guillermo Del Toro’s super-moist love story. Paul Zindel’s 1969 play Let Me Hear You Whisper bears some striking similarities to The Shape of Water, from the central human/experiment love story to the protagonist being a female janitor in a government laboratory. Whether or not Del Toro owes any debt to Zindel is anyone’s guess, but ‘80s nostalgists know that there’s another masterwork that no doubt influenced the filmmaker: Ron Howard’s 1984 mermaid comedy Splash.
Screen Junkies’ The Dailies have compiled a quick video that sets key scenes from both films side-by-side, thus demonstrating that there’s only so many ways to tell the story of a human falling in love with a sea creature. In Splash, it’s a mermaid (in Zindel’s play, it’s a dolphin), and, as in all of the aforementioned stories, the starry-eyed hero saves it from a tank in a government lab with the assistance of a sympathetic fellow scientist. Shape also mirrors Splash in the emphasis on salt-filled home bathtubs, as well as climactic waterfront scenes with government agents swarming on the doomed couple, who find themselves in an underwater embrace as the credits roll.
None of this is to lob further accusations of plagiarism at Del Toro, whose film is a visual masterpiece packed with two of the most gripping performances of the year in Sally Hawkins and Michael Shannon. Rather, it’s simply evidence that, should some budding scribe out there want to write a human/fish love story, they might want to update the playbook a bit.