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Behind the sumptuous, monstrous craft of ‘Poor Things’

by Gabriel Martinez
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Cinematic Artistry

“Poor Things” is a cinematic masterpiece that combines classic Hollywood filmmaking with a touch of modern technology, resulting in a surreal and imaginative world that serves as the backdrop for the film’s compelling narrative. Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, the movie transports viewers to an 1890s Victorian setting but infuses it with a sci-fi twist, creating a unique and visually stunning experience.

The foundation of “Poor Things” lies in the meticulous work of production designers Shona Heath and James Price. They meticulously constructed sets that span various locations, from a London townhouse reminiscent of “Young Frankenstein” to the enchanting streets of Lisbon, Alexandria, and Paris. These sets provided the canvas on which the story of Bella Baxter, played by Emma Stone, unfolds—a tale of self-discovery and liberation set against a captivating fairy-tale backdrop.

Lanthimos drew inspiration from a variety of sources, including films like “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” and the works of directors like Luis Buñuel and Fellini. However, he encouraged his production teams to push the boundaries and create something entirely new. The result was a reference guide of 200 pages, featuring artwork by renowned painters and drawings of medical procedures, all contributing to the film’s unique visual language.

The production designers spared no effort in building immersive sets that brought the film’s locations to life. The London townhouse, in particular, was so meticulously constructed that it felt like a real house to some on set. The attention to detail was so profound that even its demolition was documented—a testament to the dedication and creativity of the team.

Costume designer Holly Waddington played a crucial role in expressing Bella’s character through her clothing. Bella’s wardrobe evolved to reflect her growing independence, transitioning from doll-like and animalistic outfits to more modern attire as she embarks on her journey of self-discovery. Waddington’s designs brilliantly captured the essence of Bella’s transformation, utilizing elements that blended both period and contemporary fashion, resulting in striking visuals.

Cinematographer Robbie Ryan, known for his work with naturalist filmmakers, collaborated closely with Lanthimos to bring the film’s elaborate design to life. They adopted a unique approach, shooting with minimal lighting and relying on practical techniques reminiscent of ’30s cinema. This approach allowed them to achieve the film’s ambitious visual goals and create a captivating visual experience that leaps off the screen.

In “Poor Things,” every aspect of craftsmanship, from set design to costume, and cinematography, contributes to the film’s rich and immersive world. As a result, “Poor Things” has garnered critical acclaim and numerous awards, solidifying its place as a remarkable cinematic achievement.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Cinematic Artistry

What is “Poor Things” about?

“Poor Things” is a film that explores the story of a young woman, played by Emma Stone, who is reanimated by a demented surgeon, portrayed by Willem Dafoe. It blends elements of the Frankenstein story with a Victorian setting and a surreal twist.

Who are the key collaborators behind the film?

The key collaborators behind “Poor Things” include director Yorgos Lanthimos, production designers Shona Heath and James Price, costume designer Holly Waddington, and cinematographer Robbie Ryan.

How did the production team create the elaborate sets for the film?

The production designers, Shona Heath and James Price, meticulously built immersive sets for various locations, including a London townhouse, Lisbon streets, and more. These sets were constructed with incredible attention to detail, making them appear as authentic as real locations.

What was the inspiration for the film’s visual style?

Director Yorgos Lanthimos drew inspiration from a range of sources, including classic films like “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” and the works of directors such as Luis Buñuel and Fellini. He encouraged his production teams to push boundaries and create a visually unique world.

How did costume designer Holly Waddington express the character’s evolution through clothing?

Holly Waddington designed Bella’s wardrobe to reflect her character’s growth, transitioning from doll-like and animalistic outfits to more modern attire as Bella embarks on her journey of self-discovery.

What was the approach to cinematography in “Poor Things”?

Cinematographer Robbie Ryan adopted a unique approach, shooting with minimal lighting and practical techniques reminiscent of ’30s cinema. This approach allowed the team to achieve the film’s ambitious visual goals and create a captivating visual experience.

What accolades has “Poor Things” received?

“Poor Things” has garnered critical acclaim and recognition, winning the top prize at the Venice Film Festival and receiving seven Golden Globe nominations.

How does “Poor Things” stand out as a cinematic achievement?

The film’s meticulous craftsmanship, from set design to costume and cinematography, contributes to its rich and immersive world, making “Poor Things” a remarkable cinematic achievement.

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