Art And Culture

Oscar Favorite ‘Shape of Water’ Hit by Plagiarism Allegations

Sally Hawkins (L) and Octavia Spencer  in ‘The Shape of Water’.Sally Hawkins (L) and Octavia Spencer  in ‘The Shape of Water’.

Oscar favorite ‘The Shape of Water’ has been accused of plagiarism by the estate of an American playwright.

Director Guillermo del Toro’s film, which follows a janitor working in a secret laboratory who falls in love with a man-like sea creature and tries to rescue it, is “obviously derived” from a play by the Pulitzer-winner Paul Zindel, the late playwright’s son David Zindel has claimed, The Telegraph reported.

“We are shocked that a major studio could make a film so obviously derived from my late father’s work without anyone recognizing it and coming to us for the rights,” David Zindel said.

He believes there are close parallels between his father’s 1969 play ‘Let Me Hear You Whisper’ and the Hollywood film, which has been nominated for 13 Oscars, including Best Original Screenplay for its co-writers del Toro and Vanessa Taylor.

In the play, a janitor working at a laboratory forms an emotional bond with a dolphin, and tries to rescue it after she learns it is to be dissected by the institute’s scientists. The ending of the film differs considerably from that of the play, which was broadcast on US television.

The film’s distributor, Fox Searchlight, has firmly denied that it was influenced by Zindel’s play. “Guillermo del Toro has never read nor seen Zindel’s play in any form,” a spokesman said. “Mr. del Toro has had a 25 year career during which he has made 10 feature films and has always been very open about acknowledging his influences.”

Del Toro has previously said that elements of the film were inspired by a film he saw as a child, the 1954 horror movie ‘Creature From the Black Lagoon’, starring Julie Adams.

 More Resemblance

This is not the first allegation of plagiarism to be leveled at The Shape of Water. Earlier this month, online commentators spotted parallels between the film and a 2015 short called ‘The Space Between Us’, written and directed by Marc Nollkaemper, a student at the Netherlands Film Academy.

In The Space Between Us, a janitor working at a laboratory falls in love with a man-like sea creature which is being held captive by scientists, and decides to rescue it.

The NFA has asserted that the two films have “very different identities” and are “not in any conceivable way interlinked”. Drawing attention to the writers’ “common roots in mythology”, and the links between The Shape of Water and Del Toro’s 2004 film Hellboy, the statement read:

“After recently screening The Shape of Water and following conversations that took place in a very constructive and friendly atmosphere with del Toro, The Netherlands Film Academy believes that both The Shape of Water and our short, The Space Between Us, have their own very different identities.

“They have separate timelines of development and are not in any conceivable way interlinked or related. The Space Between Us team was very excited and grateful to have the opportunity to actively discuss the creative inspirations of both films in a personal conversation with del Toro”.

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