Bella Baxter: until this summer, she was a virtually unknown character from a novel by Alasdair Gray. Since the Venice Film Festival however, she is an icon who will continue to capture the imagination deep into the 21st century - and perhaps beyond. She is the main character of Poor Things, the eighth feature film by Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite, The Lobster).
Bella Baxter was not born, but - in a variation on Frankenstein and Pygmalion - sprung from the mind of Godwin "God" Baxter. He pretends that Bella is his daughter, but in reality, he fished her body out of the Thames after a suicide attempt. He then implanted the brain of a foetus in her. Initially, she behaves like a child, but she quickly matures. Life in isolation - her father keeps her inside - does not satisfy her anymore. She heads out into Victorian London, unencumbered by any kind of shame. She does not understand the need to keep quiet about lust and the pleasures of sex.
One day, she meets a shady lawyer who claims that too much politeness shatters the soul. He promises to show her the world. And sex, lots of sex. It is an offer she cannot refuse. What follows is not only a geographical journey, via Porto and Alexandria, but also a mental odyssey. Bella learns what it is to be a woman. And the high price she has to pay for the freedom she claims in a male-dominated society.
Poor Things - an astonishing, incomparable slice of cinema - combines the graceful aesthetics and beautiful dialogue (by screenwriter Tony McNamara) of The Favourite with the abrasive roughness of Lanthimos' early Greek films (Dogtooth, Alps) into an impressive piece of steampunk. That Poor Things stays with you is also and even mainly - without detracting from the excellent acting of Mark Ruffalo and Willem Dafoe - thanks to Emma Stone’s fearless performance. One moment flirting with the limits of what is physically feasible, the next proving that she is the Katharine Hepburn of her generation. A coming-of-age like you've never seen one before.
Emma Stone, Willem Dafoe, Mark Ruffalo
Ed Guiney, Yorgos Lanthimos, Andrew Lowe, Emma Stone
The Walt Disney Company Benelux / Searchlight Pictures
United States of America, Ireland, United Kingdom
'Poor Things' (Alasdair Gray)