Homage in The Shape of Water – Odessa Steps

The last movie we watch in my film studies class every spring is always whatever has won the Academy Award for Best Picture that year. This year we’re watching The Shape of Water. This is a really brilliant movie, and I have so many things I’m thinking about in response that I want to write a longer essay/article this summer. In the short term, just to give myself an outlet right away, I’m going to post small items I’ve noticed and am mulling over.

One thing I want to look at in this film is homage. I’ve written about “homage” before; you can read that post for additional background if you like (here, for example). If you read reviews of The Shape of Water, you can see that others have noted some of the more direct film references (like Elisa dancing with her mop à la Fred Astaire dancing with the coat rack in Royal Wedding). I’ll probably talk about those, too.

But today I just thought I’d post some screenshots of a little thing I noticed. Below is a screenshot from the Odessa Steps scene in Battleship Potemkin, Sergei Eisenstein’s 1927 classic portrayal of a real life massacre of innocent civilians by government troops as punishment for feeding the starving sailors out on the ship just beyond the docks. This is the mother whose baby carriage careens down the staircase after she is shot in the stomach. Note the close-up of her hands and the blood oozing out as she clutches her wound.

The second is a screenshot from the last scene in The Shape of Water, where Elisa has been shot in the stomach by Colonel Strickland for trying to help the creature escape the torture he’s been enduring under the government’s (Strickland’s) authority. Note the placement of Elisa’s hands and the blood emerging from the bullet’s entry point as she presses against it with her fingers.

A really small thing, possibly coincidental but appearing quite obvious to me, especially when you consider the similar themes of the two films.

So that’s today’s post, nothing more than a snippet of something I’m thinking about as I continue to ruminate on Guillermo del Toro’s masterpiece. Thanks for reading and thinking about it with me 🙂

About Katherine Wikoff

I am a college professor at Milwaukee School of Engineering, where I teach literature, film studies, political science, and communication. I also volunteer with a Milwaukee homeless sanctuary, Repairers of the Breach, as chair of the Communications and Fund Development Committee.
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6 Responses to Homage in The Shape of Water – Odessa Steps

  1. paulrwaibel says:

    It has been many years, more than thirty, since I saw Battleship Potemkin. Classic movies are great to watch, especially if you are into the history of film or the period portrayed. I recently watched Blue Angel. It was a great experience. In graduate school, I was very much interested in Weimar Germany and the culture of the period.

    Liked by 2 people

    • German Expressionist films and paintings are favorites of mine, too. I think that their influence on Hitchcock’s work must be one reason I love his films so much!

      Liked by 1 person

      • paulrwaibel says:

        Have you ever read Otto Friedrich’s Before the Deluge: A Portrait of Berlin in the 1920’s (Harper & Row, 1972)? There is some very good reading about German films of the twenties, as well as other aspects of Weimar culture. I reviewed it while in graduate school (The History Teacher
        Vol. 7, No. 1 (Nov., 1973), pp. 1-6). While on the subject of German films, are you familiar with Hans-Jurgen Syberberg’s Hitler: A Film from Germany? I had the privilege seeing it in Berkeley in the summer, 1978. Syberberg was there that night to answer questions, etc. The audience’s reaction was very interesting. People were very upset, because he was saying that there is a potential Hitler in all of us. That was one of the most interesting films I have ever seen. I wish it was available on DVD. Syberberg made some really good films. Real art!

        Liked by 2 people

        • I’ve heard of the book, definitely. But I’ve never read it. That goes onto my list for summer reading! And I’ll look for your review, too😄

          I’m not familiar with the film, but it sounds really intriguing. Hard to believe people at Berkeley of all places would be upset by the idea that there’s a potential Hitler inside all of us. I’d have thought they’d have read Arendt’s work (banality of evil) or Stanley Milgram’s (perils of obedience) and would be more receptive to that possibility. But then again, no one likes to think it about themselves! I wonder why that film isn’t available on DVD? I’d like to see it.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. paulrwaibel says:

    The review is available from JSTOR. I note from Amazon that Hitler A Film from Germany was released in 2007 on DVD. Unfortunately, it cost $120, a bit too pricey for me, but maybe you can convince your university library to purchase a copy. An earlier pirated version was released on DVD, but is really, really bad. I would not recommend wasting approx. $50 on it.

    Liked by 1 person

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