A TENDER love story, set during the era of cold-war paranoia, won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.
The Shape of Water by Guillermo del Toro tells the story of mute cleaning lady Elisa who falls in love with a sort of merman in a top-secret government laboratory.
It’s a captivating science-fiction fantasy, embellished by Alexander Desplat’s score.
The best director prize went to Xavier Legrand for Custody, a raw domestic drama about a couple in the middle of a separation and its impact on their two children.
Pent-up violence explodes, triggering a deadly scenario of manipulation and revenge in a film whose realism becomes hard to watch as it conveys the anxiety of the children, particularly their crippling feelings of guilt.
It’s the first feature by Legrand, who also won the best debut award.
Another family tragedy, Foxtrot, won the grand jury prize. Samuel Maoz’s drama is a distressing story of war and loss, in which the grief of parents over their son’s death in action is heart-rending and tragic.
Charlotte Rampling won best actress for her stunning performance as Hanna in Andrea Pallaoro, an enigmatic story about a woman’s life after her husband is jailed, while newcomer Charlie Plummer won best new actor for his role in Andrew Haigh’s Lean on Pete, about a young boy who steals a racehorse to save it from the slaughterhouse in Mexico.
A number of films tackled contemporary political topics, from Ai Weiwei’s documentary Human Flow on the global refugee crisis to Ex Libris, Fred Wiseman’s eloquent film on the New York Public Library, where talks, discussions, concerts and education programmes are held.
It’s a triumphant riposte to the dumbing down of the Trump era from a firmly Democratic state.