‘The Favourite’ (2018) director Yorgos Lanthimos has raised the bar on day three of the Venice Film Festival with ‘Poor Things’, an imaginative gothic fable about the liberation of the woman who died Emma Stone turned into a woman Kind of like a Frankenstein, but in a woman, beautiful and adventurous, especially sexual.
Without Stone’s presence in Venice, due to the actors’ strike in Hollywood, Lanthimos was the protagonist of the press conference launching the film, which aspires to the Golden Lion and was met with loud applause.
Poor Creatures is based on a novel by Scotsman Alasdair Gray about a woman who is brought back to life by a strange surgeon (Willem Dafoe) using unorthodox methods.
“He talks about the freedom to think and see the world, about the position of women in society, about the relationships between men and women,” summed up the Greek director, who became known in 2009 with the unclassifiable “Canine”.
Lanthimos read the novel in 2011 and has wanted to adapt it ever since. Stone’s involvement goes back a long way, too, as he told her about the project towards the end of filming The Favourite, and even then the La la Land star showed interest.
“She was briefed on the whole process and I think that helped her because in a way she had the character on her mind the whole time,” said the director, who admitted his surprise at having to speak on the actress’s behalf . .
Unlike the novel, the film’s narrative focuses solely on Bella Baxter’s point of view, “that mind that can start from scratch, completely free, without shame or prejudice,” he said.
The action begins in London, in the house and workshop of the surgeon who brings her back to life and where a first phase of discovery takes place until Bella’s desire for emancipation emerges and she embarks on a journey with a permissive lawyer whom she something gives life to Mark Ruffalo, with whom he experiences a passionate adventure around the world.
As for the abundance of sexual scenes, Lanthimos has stated that they appear in the novel. “I didn’t want to make a prudish character-betrayal film, and Emma was totally committed,” he said.
“The character didn’t have to be ashamed, and Emma didn’t have to be ashamed of her body, her nudity, and her participation in these scenes, and she understood that immediately,” he explains.
“The good thing about Emma is that after several films together – they also made a short film, ‘Bleat’ in 2020 – we understand each other almost without speaking, it was a great experience,” he added.
In addition, they had an intimacy coordinator during filming. “At first this profession seemed threatening to most filmmakers, but like anything, when you find a good professional you realize you really need them,” he said.
“He made everyone feel very comfortable,” he says of the experience. “There was a script, but specifically for the sex scenes, we sat down with Emma and decided, ‘What position should we take here, what should we do there, what’s missing? You already know that from experience.’ . What do we need to portray about sex and the different desires of people in order for this to be complete and a sufficient account of human desire and its idiosyncrasies and all of those things?’”
“It was important to all of us that it be part of the film and not shy away from it,” he says of the sex scene portrayal.
Shot on set, Lanthimos showcases a visual exuberance in set construction that transforms Lisbon, Paris or London into dystopian versions of themselves, jumping from black and white to color, standard to wide angle lenses.
“The first thing I do is see what the story asks of me, but it’s true that cinematically I’m interested in developing a style and developing it in every film,” he explained. “It was about doing something different. A world that was right for them could not be the world as we know it.”
Black humor, a touch of perversion and the absurd are also elements of his filmography, which are repeated in “Poor Creatures”.
“I feed on what I observe, read and imagine. There is something absurd in all human behavior, and sexuality also seems natural to me,” he said.