“Can I tell you something, I actually hate talking about movies,” my friend Adam said to me while the rest of the crew passionately argued about the merits of their favorite films in the other room. Adam and
I were on set, making a feature we’ve been working on all year. And I couldn’t agree with him more. Despite the fact that I constantly write about films, and talk about them on my podcast. The truth is that discussing film with “film people,” can be a strange, competitive experience. One where opinions are mistaken for facts and your value depends on how many others in the conversation agree with you.
Now that may seem dramatic, but it’s the truth. And in an effort not to yuck and yums, and to practice what I preach, I want to start talking about movies a little differently here. What’s more interesting to me, and undoubtedly to you, is not my personal opinion of a piece of art, but some larger context for it.
The element of Yorgos Lanthimos’ most recent film “Poor Things” (2003) that excites me the most are borrowed from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. And that is certainly not a judgment. All art is influenced by other art. The best films take that influence and turn it into something the audience truly hasn’t seen before. Which “Poor Things” certainly does. It’s a surreal, floating dreamscape seen through the eyes of a fucked up monster created against her will.
Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo and Willem Dafoe are all brave for their performances in “Poor Things.” They certainly knew what they were signing up for with Yorgos Lanthimos. I’d describe “Poor Things” as an evolution of characters like Frankienstein, Frankenstein’s Monster, Dr. Finkelstein, Sally, Herbert West, Edward Scisscorhands, Ava and Seth Brundle. It’s inspired me to look into other similar stories, to see how they handle the delicate balance of a crude creator created against their will, who has to learn how the world works.
In many ways, “Poor Things” also left me pining for more bizarre coming of age stories, with a horrifying twist. It feels like Villette and Oliver Twist mixed with a steampunk fever dream. “Poor Things” both delighted and horrified me, a combination that I am partial to. Its color palette could inspire an essay all by itself.
An “inspired by Frankenstein” rabbit-hole awaits for me, and in turn you.