Yorgos Lanthimos on whether “Poor Things” is feminist: 'I try to make films more open than that'

Yorgos Lanthimos on whether “Poor Things” is feminist: 'I try to make films more open than that'
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The director would prefer not to get into "an analytic conversation" about his Oscar-nominated film.

Poor Things is one of the most acclaimed movies of 2023, earning 11 Oscar nominations with its rich world-building and an explosive central performance from Emma Stone. Adapted from the 1992 novel by Alisdair Gray, Poor Things tells the story of Bella Baxter (Stone), a woman created by implanting a fetus' brain into the body of her dead mother. As Bella learns and grows, she encounters colorful characters like the fop Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo) and medical student Max McCandles (Ramy Youssef) on her journey to self-knowledge.

So does Bella's self-empowerment mean Poor Things is a feminist fable? Director Yorgos Lanthimos prefers not to use such labels.

"I don't really like going into an analytic conversation about what it means, what the themes are, what the characters are," the filmmaker said in a new interview with Variety. "I feel confident about the script. So that means it conveys a lot of things, I think, to intelligent people. So there's no need to discuss it further."

He added, "I actually think it's dangerous to go too much into those conversations because things start becoming a little too one-dimensional. Like there's only this aspect of this film, and this is what we're thinking this is, what we're trying to do. I try to make films more open than that."

<p>Atsushi Nishijima/Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures</p> Yorgos Lanthimos and Emma Stone on the set of 'Poor Things'

Atsushi Nishijima/Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

Yorgos Lanthimos and Emma Stone on the set of 'Poor Things'

As some of Lanthimos' collaborators have discussed, Bella's story is conveyed visually rather than ideologically. Though obviously infused with elements of science fiction and steampunk, Poor Things is set in Victorian London (with excursions to Lisbon, Alexandria, and Paris), and Bella's free spirit defies the strict social expectations of that period.

Bella's long, dark hair, for example, is "a real marker of who Bella is, because she's not shackled to societal norms," Poor Things hair and makeup designer Nadia Stacey told EW last year. "At that time, women wouldn't have had their hair loose and down like that. It just would not have been proper to do that."

Her costumes, too, reflect Bella's independence. Many of her outfits are a mishmash of the various elements of Victorian women's clothing, because "she wouldn't understand the logic of it, it would seem pointless," costume designer Holly Waddington also told EW.

Poor Things has been picking up several wins on the awards circuit, and EW Oscars expert Joey Nolfi currently predicts that Stone could win Best Actress for her performance as Bella.

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