BBC Radio 4:Rev Professor David Wilkinson - 05/03/2018


Good morning. As we have been hearing, Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water last night won Oscars for best picture and best director. It is not a surprise that in a post Weinstein world, themes of inclusion and exclusion and the importance of standing against injustice were woven through the ceremony and indeed were present in the movies honoured.

The Shape of Water is a fairy story full of such themes. It is a love story between Sally Hawkins’ Eliza, a mute cleaning woman and The Asset, a humanoid aquatic monster. Its heroes are repressed minorities, the marginalised and the powerless, while the real monsters are white men of power who use the Bible for their own purposes and see God in their own image. Here is a severe CRItique of religion questioning the assumption that God loves only those who are like us and that love can be limited by social convention. But as del Toro comments water takes, ‘The shape it needs to take………. Like love. Both are gentle, malleable and yet, they break through every barrier’.

But there is more to be said about love in the movie. Del Toro includes two biblical stories within the story. Eliza lives above a cinema playing the 1960 movie The Story of Ruth, which tells of the romance between the outsider Ruth and the Israelite Boaz. Their love crosses boundaries but for Christians God uses it ultimately to bring Jesus into the world. The second Old Testament story is that of Samson and Delilah. As the commentator, Elijah Davidson points out Ruth and Boaz’s love welcomes in the outsider in the service of a greater good, while Samson’s love for Delilah is tangled up in his hubris before God. The two stories play against each other questioning the nature of love.

In a New Testament understanding, the shape of love is a cross. God’s love for the world is embodied in his saCRIfice in the death of Jesus and self-giving for the other is seen as love’s supreme expression. Indeed, standing against injustice involves risk, cost and saCRIfice – whether in gender equality, sexual harassment or in opposing humanitarian catastrophes such as Eastern Ghouta.

Along with the big pictures, Watu Wote was nominated last night as best live action short film. It told the true story of the hijack of a Kenyan bus. At gunpoint, Muslim passengers refused to obey the terrorists demand that they identify the Christians amongst them, thus saving their lives. Love does break through barriers, not only in fairy stories but often in the awful reality of life.

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