Leeds International Film Festival 2023 opened on 3 November. Within its finely programmed film selection, director Yorgos Lanthimos’ 2023 Golden Lion-winning film – Poor Things – has been picked as the Opening Film. Screened at the newly refurbished legacy cinema, Hyde Park Picture House, the film is, no doubt, a great success by all means.
Even though it is foreseeable that Lathimos would eventually make a film like this as a periodical landmark of his career to explore the non-civilised side of human beings, this film can still surprise you. Poor Things is almost on par with A Clockwork Orange, and much more surprisingly, it mocks us poor things from a feminist viewpoint.
We start with a memorable suicide scene of a lady in a sapphire blue dress jumping from a bridge painted in dark blue into a Margarita blue river. Soon, all the blues turn into black and white. You will then witness a young lady, Bella, weirdly behaving like a grumpy baby, who has been secretly kept by her “father”, a Frankensteinian surgeon, in their freakish candy house in the middle of London.
Bella is a result of a mother’s body and her unborn baby’s brain, created by her father, her “God”, Dr. Godwin Baxter. While Bella’s sexual desire and eagerness to know about the outside world developed, she became growingly uncontrollable. But she is still impressive to everyone, especially Baxter, who hadn’t thought of how intelligent and brave Bella could be when he first invented her.
Bella openly ran away on an unknown journey with a playboy, Duncan Wedderburn. Although it is not a pleasant trip, itself and the people Bella meets on this journey allow her wicked persona to grow unrestrainedly. Their journey is forced to stop in Paris after Bella “donates” all the money that Wedderburn has and sends him away. To build a life for herself, Bella officially and happily chooses to be a “whore”, a profession that can satisfy both her hyper sexual desire and her keen wish “to learn more about the world”, said Bella.
Bella’s journey, indeed, is more precise when you describe it as a travel from one man to another than a travel from one place to another. The feminist viewpoint in this film is, on the one hand, shaped by masculinity while challenging it through not obeying it. Eventually, ruin it.
The film was adapted from Alasdair Gray’s (1934 – 2019) distinctive novel of the same name. In fact, the imaginative, spectacular visual expression of the film certainly pushes the story to another level. The presentation of the world in this film is bizarre, as well as the characters and their storylines. Scenes were extravagantly designed and photographed through a surreal fisheye lens.
The cities that you believe you are familiar with turned into somewhere in a bewitching fairy-tale that you’ve never seen before. The plots, too, bizarrely composed with inconceivable lines and exaggerated performances, somehow, magically trigger you to laugh at every weird point by the finely controlled pacing of the film, and the odd yet remarkable scores.
Everything and everyone seems insane, but they put together a splendid story that points out the sad facts about humanity and the society we make, where humans civilise themself by ideas, knowledge, and technologies while twisted by them, where gender equality may never reach until both women and men equally behave barbarically to each other; where, after all, we may all just some poor things denying the mess we create.
An evolution of Bella Baxter, a young woman brought back to life by the brilliant and unorthodox scientist Dr. Godwin Baxter.
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Writers: Tony McNamara, Alasdair Gray
Stars: Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo, Willem Dafoe