The International Venice Film Festival, one of the world’s most important film festivals, has made it clear that this is a very good year in terms of cinematic quality. Many of the films that have premiered have a good chance of succeeding at the Oscars, and among them, one stands out above the rest: “Poor Things.”
Starring Emma Stone and directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, the filmmaker who previously directed the actress in the acclaimed “The Favourite,” the movie has won the Golden Lion, the festival’s top award. As had been anticipated for some time, it is one of the best films of the year and has a strong chance of sweeping the Academy Awards. But what makes this movie special?
A new version of the Frankenstein myth
From “Young Frankenstein” to “Bride of Frankenstein,” Mary Shelley’s myth has been adapted to film since the medium was created. However, I highly doubt that the writer was thinking of “Poor Things” when she wrote the acclaimed book about the monster, as this film is both an approach to the legend and a departure from any convention about it.
In reality, the film adapts the book of the same name by Alasdair Gray, which in turn draws from the Frankenstein myth. The book itself is already quite strange, but the film takes it a step further and defies any preconceived ideas about it. The plot revolves around Bella Baxter, a woman who is “resurrected” using the brain of a baby. Before that, she was Victoria Blessington, a woman who committed suicide to escape her abusive husband.
Bella comes back to life with the mentality of a small child, but her appearance leads her to become engaged to a doctor in Glasgow, whom she eventually drugs to escape with a lawyer who takes her on a journey across Europe. During her time in Europe, her brain begins to mature, and she finally develops greater awareness. However, in Europe, her original husband recognizes her and decides he wants her back by his side.
We don’t yet know how much of the original story Lanthimos has taken for his film, but knowing him, it’s likely to be a quite liberal interpretation of the myth. However, it’s clear that the movie is very, very special, with a strange yet empowering and captivating plot.
A director unique in his kind
There are very, very few directors like Yorgos Lanthimos, and essentially his presence in the film is what gives it a very different look from what one might expect from an adaptation of this kind. The Greek director has been making it clear for years that there is another way to make films, and his unique signature style has reached great heights in recent years.
Lanthimos began his official career, after two minor feature films, with “Dogtooth” in 2009, a film that surprised the world with its boldness and directorial style. “Dogtooth” was a strange but beautiful and captivating film, and with it, he managed to draw the attention of the general European cinema and international critics.
Subsequently, the director helmed “Alps” (2011) and made the leap to Hollywood with “The Lobster” (2015), a film starring Colin Farrell that earned him enough prestige to land two consecutive projects in the industry, further enhancing his reputation: “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” (2017) and “The Favourite” (2018).
Now, five years after his last release and following his Oscar success with the latter project, the director returns with “Poor Things,” a film that could potentially earn him major awards and capture the attention of an Academy in need of such projects.
Emma Stone in a state of grace
“Poor Things” is full of stars like Mark Ruffalo or Willem Dafoe, but the main one of them all is its protagonist: Emma Stone. The actress who won the Oscar for Best Leading Performance for “La La Land” already made her debut with Lanthimos in “The Favourite,” and everything seems to indicate that their collaborations will continue in the style of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp.
The primary positive criticism of the film has, as it couldn’t be otherwise, been Stone’s performance in the leading role. The actress takes on one of the most challenging roles of her life: embodying a child in the body of a resurrected adult. Yes, it’s quite peculiar, and of course, only someone like Stone could carry out this performance.
It’s not clear whether Stone will repeat winning the Oscar, as she won it relatively recently, but everything seems to indicate that she will once again receive a lot of acclaim for her role in this Lanthimos film. We can’t wait to see her in action.