The Shape of Water deals with inter-species love. What are you saying about the world we live in?

The world we live in is completely fuelled by fear, and with fear comes hatred. It's very simple. The only thing that can reduce us and divide us is ideology when you boil down an entire person with one word. Race, gender, sexual preference, politics, whatever, if you distil that person to one word, it makes that person invisible. It allows you to mistreat and to beat, to isolate, to deport, to do whatever, because you don't see them as humans that are multi-dimensional.

What are your views of sex between human and creature?

Well, this creature is not an animal and not a species but an elemental god who comes from the river and reminds her (Sally Hawkins) of her own essence. It's beautiful how they fall in love and there is no prurient or perverse element into that love. I think there is more perversity in one repressed kiss in a Victorian movie than in a whole catalogue of positions between people who love each other, of whatever persuasion, political, geographical, sexual that it is.

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What is the message of the movie?

What Buddha, Jesus and The Beatles all agreed upon - that "all you need is love".

What has love taught you?

When you are in love, really in love, you don't need anything else. You don't need adulation, you don't need a great car and you don't need a great house, you don't need anything. It's almost like an ointment for the burns of the world that we live in, which is incredibly vulgar, rapacious and full of hatred right now.

How did your affinity for water come about?

It started when I was a kid, as most artistic things do, but it evolved and it changed. When I was 6 I saw The Creature From the Black Lagoon and I saw Julia Adams swimming above the creature below which is a beautiful image. I had a sense of almost dizziness, like the Stendhal Syndrome. I was overwhelmed with the beauty of that image.

I can't imagine you doing a movie about Napoleon at Waterloo.

I can tell you, if I was to shoot a movie about Napoleon at Waterloo, that story would be from the point of view of the guy who starches and irons Napoleon's pants. Then I am interested.

Can you give me a glimpse into the way you work. Are you a morning person?

Oh yeah. I sleep four hours but I wake up super early and I go to bed about 12. I read two to three books a week and watch seven to nine movies a week. I try to stay culturally alive and curious. I am a guy you can find in museums and bookstores. And the way I work is 24/7. I am like a magpie finding details of life or images that I store in the notebook and I write and draw in those notebooks constantly. I collect images and take notes all day long. I try to stay curious. That is the main thing.

How would you describe the life of an artist?

Artists are not normal people, we are sort of a bunch of outcasts and oddballs. I don't belong. I am like Groucho [Marx], "I wouldn't belong to a club that would take me as a member." So you observe the world in a different way and you are permeated by the world in a different way. I listen and do what I can. That's all any of us can do.

Lowdown

The Shape of Water is screening now (rated R16)