After wowing Venice Film Festival press this morning with his Cold War-set fairy tale, Guillermo del Toro unveiled The Shape Of Water in its official competition screening tonight. The reception inside the Sala Grande was rapturous and one of the most emotional festival debuts in recent memory. A lengthy standing ovation ended only when del Toro and his cast finally left the theater.

The Shape Of Water

Shouts of “Bravo!” were accompanied by hoots and hollers. The film also elicited sobs of joy. Director John Landis, who is here chairing the VR jury, wiped away tears as he stood behind a visibly moved del Toro, also turning on the waterworks and with a huge smile on his face.

Shape Of Water is a romantic fantasy that stars Sally Hawkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer and Richard Jenkins.

The 1962-set tale kicks off in an American high-security government lab that’s hiding a top-secret creature. That would be an aquatic man (Jones) who’s worshiped as a god in the Amazon. He fascinates Elisa (Hawkins), the mute, lonely woman who cleans the facility and forges a relationship — initially based on a taste for hard-boiled eggs, but evolving into so much more.

The film marks a return to del Toro’s earlier work like 2006’s Oscar-winning Pan’s Labyrinth. It took 10 years of struggle for him to get Shape made and he’s said it was the hardest shoot he’s ever had. Ultimately, he said earlier today, the mix of fantasy, romance, thriller and old-style Hollywood is a movie that’s “in love with love and in love with cinema.” It also addresses some real-world issues and the challenges we face today.

The film is next headed to Telluride this weekend, then to Toronto. Judging by the reactions here today, all day, it’s securely in the awards-season conversation. Fox Searchlight releases domestically December 8.

Below, you can check out some snaps from inside the world premiere:

Deadline
Deadline
Deadline