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Guillermo del Toro wins top prize at Venice Film Festival (Getty Images)

The Shape of Water wins top prize at Venice Film Festival

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Mar 25, 2021, 5:00 PM EDT (Updated)

The early critical buzz for Guillermo del Toro's new movie has paid off in prestigious fashion.

The Shape of Water, del Toro's dark fantasy about the romance between a mute cleaning woman and a humanoid aquatic creature kept in a Cold War military installation, was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival over the weekend. The movie beat out 21 other contenders for the festival’s highest honor, selected by a jury headed by Annette Bening.

According to Variety, del Toro was accorded a loud standing ovation when the film was announced as the winner and was visibly moved as he told the audience, "I believe in life, I believe in love, and I believe in cinema."

The Golden Lion is the second such honor del Toro has won in his career, the first being the jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006 for Pan's Labyrinth. Del Toro is one of those rare filmmakers who is beloved by genre fans, many critics, and highbrow festival programmers, although his more personal works, such as Pan's Labyrinth and now The Shape of Water, tend to score with the latter instead of fare like Hellboy or Pacific Rim.

The Venice jury spread the awards love around to a number of different winners, so del Toro did not get the nod for Best Director and star Sally Hawkins also missed a Best Actress prize. Nonetheless, the reception for The Shape of Water in Venice, as well as subsequent festivals in Telluride and Toronto, means that distributor Fox Searchlight has the Oscars firmly in its sights as well.

The movie will be released in the U.S. at the height of the Oscar race, on December 8, and it would be terrific to see this dedicated director and the genre filmmaking he's so passionate about make an impact. Congratulations to Guillermo del Toro as we await our chance to see this already highly anticipated movie.

Watch a clip from The Shape of Water: