Guillermo del Toro’s Oscar-nominated movie The Shape of Water has been levelled with accusations of plagiarism by the estate of an American author and playwright, Paul Zindel.
David Zindel, the son of Pulitzer prize winner, recently issued a statement to The Guardian accusing del Toro’s adult fantasy about a female janitor who falls in love with a captive sea creature of ripping off his father’s 1969 play, “Let Me Hear You Whisper,” which was also about a female janitor who falls in love with a captive water-dweller (in this case, a dolphin).
“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,” he said. “A lot of people are telling us they are struck by the substantial similarities. We are very grateful to Paul Zindel’s fans for bringing this to our attention.”
In del Toro’s movie, the janitor (Elisa, played by Sally Hawkins) is a mute, but Zindel’s janitor (Helen, played by Ruth White), while not being mute, does reference a lack of speech in her relationship with the dolphin. Other similarities pointed out by the Zindel estate include both plots using food to placate the creature, government officials planning to vivisect the animal and of course, the protagonist planning to free the creature by hiding it in a laundry cart. The Zindel camp also points out similarities in friends helping the story’s heroine with her escape plot and also, how both stories have the lead actress dancing with a mop to love songs much to the creatures’ amusement.
A Fox Searchlight spokesperson denied the allegations of plagiarism, stating, “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. If the Zindel family has questions about this original work we welcome a conversation with them.”
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