Catapulted into a weird and wonderful fantasy land that is a steampunk spectacle of Victorian society, Yorgos Lanthimos’s Poor Things places female autonomy at the forefront of Bella’s ‘Frankensteinian’ and bizarre bildungsroman. The unconventional scientist Dr. Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe) resurrects Bella (Emma Stone) following her suicide and replaces her brain with a baby’s brain. As an adaptation of Alasdair Gray’s 1992 novel, the film maintains Lanthimos’s subversive filmmaking and celebrates the craft while exploring the themes autonomy, control and freedom that constrain Bella as she embarks on an odyssey of self-discovery. Impact‘s Natalie Howarth explores.
The shifting nature of the dazzling cinematic features provides more depth when exploring the notion of autonomy and control: the film’s soundtrack composed by Jerskin Fendrix whose sound is marked by an angular and oblique quality heard initially in the track Bella. Backed by Fendrix’s score, the unconventional shift in camera angles from the fisheye lens, to heighten significant moments, to the wide-angle lens, creating this visceral sense of unfamiliarity of the world during Bella’s cognitive progression, creates an authoritative control over Bella, even with her flirtations with sexual liberation and the discovery of human sensibilities.
it is a naturally pervasive ideology that instils the male characters to feel ownership over Bella, whether it is paternal or romantically
This exercise of authoritative control through the camera work could relate to the patriarchal forces that dictates the expectation of women’s behaviour and how it is a naturally pervasive ideology that instils the male characters to feel ownership over Bella, whether it is paternal or romantically. The Bergman-esque closeups that bring attention to detail on Bella’s facial expressions during turning points could contribute to this patriarchal entrapment as she is affected by those who constantly control and stricken her environment.
Mark Ruffalo portrays the lecherous lawyer, Duncan Wedderburn, the most exploitative character of Bella’s discovery of sexuality. Duncan and Bella embark on a journey that begins in Lisbon, painted as a surreal and colourful metropolis with vignettes in each shot to portray Bella’s progressing cognition, leaving a monochrome home setting into a vivid vacation setting. The trip to Lisbon is marked by hedonism and indulgence as Duncan and Bella frequently have sex and fancy dinners. Duncan takes advantage of her child-like innocence and smuggles her onto a cruise in an effort to exercise control over her as he perceives her as ungovernable.
she learns about socialist ideas, exercising another form of liberation found in education
Stunned by her befriending of passengers on the cruise and her newfound interest of philosophy, Duncan indulges in drinking and gambling as he cannot cope with the loss of her child-like self that he was attracted to in the beginning. Duncan’s authoritarian and restrictive efforts to possess and keep her away from people backfires as during a stop at Alexandria, Bella witnesses the extreme poverty, therefore giving away all of Duncan’s winnings to the poor.
This scene is an absolute turning point for the road to freedom as after giving away all of Duncan’s money, the pair are escorted off the cruise, finding themselves in Paris, and Bella abandons Duncan to work in a brothel. The detachment from Duncan’s journey and her discovery that her body is her own possession shows her new direction to liberation. Befriending another girl working in the brothel, she learns about socialist ideas, exercising another form of liberation found in education.
Poor Things is satirical and hilarious communicated through Stone’s dedication to the role and an air of throwing herself in the deep end
An Oscar-worthy performance from Emma Stone, who has collaborated with Yorgos Lanthimos in the 2018 film The Favourite, Poor Things is satirical and hilarious communicated through Stone’s dedication to the role and an air of throwing herself in the deep end.
The exploration of female autonomy remains at the forefront of Bella’s narrative and you are immersed into this through the alchemic, enigmatic, and explosive form of craft that is consistent for the film’s duration. A beautifully surreal and odd film, hoping to see an Oscar sweep for Lanthimos!
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