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Alexandre Desplat’s The Shape of Water multi-award-winning score

The 2018 Oscars, Golden Globes, BAFTAs, Critic’s Choice; highly acclaimed composer Alexandre Desplat won them all for the stunning, aquatic-influenced original score for The Shape of Water.


Alexandre Desplat is no stranger to accolades having already won an Oscar, a Golden Globe and two BAFTAs, and now he’s won another one of each for the bewitching score for Guillermo del Toro‘s The Shape of Water (2017). Desplat possesses a massive portfolio of work but is arguably best known for composing the Oscar-winning score for The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) and the enchanting scores for The King’s Speech (2010),  The Imitation Game (2014) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2010-2011).

The Shape of Water is an intriguing film by Guillermo del Toro, previously known for Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) and Hellboy (2004/2008), and follows a mute janitor, Elisa, who works in a high security government laboratory. She discovers a mysterious and highly classified scaled creature with whom she forms a special bond and subsequently finds herself in his defence against government officials.

Desplat‘s scores never disappoint, infallibly exuding prowess and flair. Making use of the full orchestra, he composes elegant melodies and enveloping atmospheres through delicate textures. The Shape of Water underscore is particularly beautiful which consists of elements nodding to his French nationality, albeit not intentionally. Plucked string rhythms add a dream-like, ethereal quality while the main melodies on flutes and a whistle (whistled by Desplat himself) create the fantastic flavour.

The detailed, elegant melodies work wonderfully to give the mute protagonist, Elisa, a voice and a means of expressing her emotion. As an additional inspired feature, the melodies move in waves, a clever metaphor to the film’s theme of water which Desplat claims was an unconscious decision.1The Waltz pulse is present in the themes relating to Elisa and her bond with the scaled creature, emphasising their attachment in a similar manner to that between two dancers.

Alexandre Desplat had a tough competition at the Oscars as fellow nominees included Hans Zimmer (Dunkirk), Jonny Greenwood (Phantom Thread), Carter Burwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) and the one and only John Williams (Star Wars: The Last Jedi). The Shape of Water also won Best Production Design, Best Director and Best Picture, a brilliant victory for the Mexican director you may know for Pan’s Labyrinth (2006).

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