Unveiling the Creative Journey: Crafting the Masterpiece “Poor Things”

Mushtaque A
Mushtaque A

10 April 2024

4 min read

Unveiling the Creative Journey: Crafting the Masterpiece “Poor Things”


Embarking on any creativity-filled journey is quite similar to navigating through a labyrinth of inspiration, imagination, as well as ingenuity. In the realm that cinematic innovation is, there are very few endeavors which manage to captivate the minds and hearts of audiences as well as critics alike as deeply as “Poor Things”. 

Helmed by the legendary director Yorgos Lanthimos, and featuring an S-tier star cast led by Oscar-winning actress Emma Stone, the Academy Award-winning film transcends the traditional filmmaking boundaries. The film offers to the audiences a truly unreal exploration of multiple entities, including identity, societal assessment, and transformation. 

In this article, we will take a closer look at how the cinematic adaptation of Alasdair Gray’s magnus opus of the same name was made, and explore numerous other aspects related to the film. So without any further ado, let us dive right into it: 

The Creation of “Poor Things”

Screen Daily
A still from the set of “Poor Things” | Credit: Screen Daily

Yorgos Lanthimos’s exceptional masterpiece is the final result of a well-executed collaborative effort between some of the film industry’s top-tier talents. For starters, Emma Stone’s brilliant portrayal of Bella Baxter, the protagonist of “Poor Things” is, at the least, a solid testament to her versatility as an exceptional artist. 

Similarly, the director Yorgos Lanthimos’ stellar directorial vision brings the unusual yet captivating narrative to life paired with exceptional visual flair. What further brought out the best in everyone working on the film is that during the camera test for the film, Lanthimos constantly encouraged an environment free of performance pressure. This allowed all the actors to get into their respective characters’ skins and embody them with finesse.  

Film Rehearsals & Development of Characters

Yorgos Lanthimos, the direcfor of “Poor Things” with Emma Stone | Credit: Oscars.org

Before the filming of “Poor Things” began, the entire cast, including Emma Stone, Willem Defoe, Mark Ruffalo, and Ramy Youssef, indulged in multiple weeks of meticulous rehearsals. They engaged in a variety of theater games as well as exercises to truly flesh out their respective characters. 

Emma Stone’s immaculate portrayal of the protagonist Bella Baxter went through significant evolution. She navigated Bella’s journey through multiple stages of metamorphosis, from truly innocent to being empowered. Emma’s sheer dedication to her art is very evident thanks to her diligent approach towards character development. 

Similar to Emma, Willem Dafoe, who plays the role of Dr. Godwin Baxter in the film, visited mortician school with Ramy Youssef to acquire some experience related to surgery procedures such as slicing, stiching, etc. 

Under the proper guidance of Ivana Chubbuck, a highly-renowned Ivana Chubbuck, all the cast members dived into their respective roles’ psychological intricacies, thereby uncovering the different layers of their characters’ depth as well as complexities. 

The Construction of Bella Baxter’s World

A still of Emma Stone as Bella Baxter in “Poor Things” | Credit: BBC

Central to “Poor Things”’ success is Yorgos Lanthimos’ creative decision to create the world featured in the film from absolute zero. No CGI or greenscreen was used in the film, which further adds to the film’s appeal from a cinematic standpoint. The production design of the film was helmed by James Price and Shoana Heath, both of whom are known in the industry for their dedication to the craft. 

The set production procedure was meticulously performed. The inspiration was drawn from the Victorian-era style of architecture & design. For Heath’s reference, Yorgos only gave five references, one of which was a zoomed-in section of the Bosch painting, The Garden of Earthly Delights. That became a sort of foundation for the world that Heath was going to build.

Even the minutest details, right from the unique wallpaper patterns featured in scenes to the seemingly-weathered furniture, were crafted to captivate viewers into Bella’s quirky world. Costumes featured in films play a vital role in setting the tone of the film. Holly Wadington, a highly renowned costume designer was at the forefront in terms of costumes worn by Bella Baxter in the film. 

She brought Bella, in all her essence, to life on screen. Wadington worked closely with Emma to develop the signature look of Bella’s character. Waddington’s keen eye for detail is clearly indicated in all the whimsical dresses and attires worn by Baxter in the film, which truly reflects the child-like innocence in her as well as her untamed spirit. 

The switch between black & white and coloured scenes in the movie portray Bella’s emotions and learning. Her freedom is symbolized by the switch to technicolor-rich sequences to show her spirit of exploration, and her thirst for knowledge and new life experiences.

Cinematography & Sound Design

The Wrap
A scene from “Poor Things” featuring Emma Stone and Mark Ruffalo | Credit: The Wrap

Yorgos Lanthimos, the director of “Poor Things,” is renowned for his unique visual style. He collaborated with Robbie Ryan, a highly acclaimed cinematographer, to give life on screen to the artificial world of “Poor Things”. Known for his exceptional work in movies like “Marriage Story” and “The Favourite,” used a KODAK camera to shoot the picture’s unique visual aesthetic.  

The film was also selectively shot on VistaVision, a high-res widescreen movie format. This allowed Ryan to get a truly-rich and textured appearance reminiscent of old, classic cinema, all while maintaining a remarkable picture quality. This choice facilitated “Poor Things” to acquire a timeless appeal, maximizing the immersiveness quotient for viewers. 

Besides the smart choice of camera as well as format, both the director and Ryan did experiments with multiple unconventional techniques of filming. This further enhanced the movie’s visual storytelling. In the first third of the film, Bella was followed closely, capturing her in a more chaotic and dynamic manner, and as her character develops, the camerawork becomes smoother. A specific filming tactic involved using natural light sources as well as practical effects in order to recreate the atmospheric lighting which underscored the themes of mystery & intrigue in the film. 

The seamless collaboration between the director, cinematographer and production designers was integral in achieving the beautifully-striking visual appeal featured in the film. The production designers’ keen eye for intricate details paired with Ryan’s top-notch cinematography helped in the creation of a visually-exciting backdrop for the tale to unfold. 

Complementing “Poor Things”’ enticing visuals is the exceptional sound design done by Johnnie Burn, the industry-renowned sound designer. Known for his auditory contributions ot films like “Ex Machina,” “Under the Skin,” etc., Burn employed a variety of ambient tonnes, experimental tactics, and original compositions in order to make a truly-captivating soundscape that engulfs viewers in the cinematically-brilliant world of “Poor Things.”

The addition of sounds in the film is not only to add to the film’s atmosphere, but also to provoke emotional responses and enhance the tension during pivotal scenes or moments. From the subtle sound of rustling leaves to the terrifying tunes of Jerskin Fendrix’s remarkable score, each sound featured in the movie is intricately crafted to attract audiences further deep into the narrative world. 

To summarize, the collaboration between the designated trio in the cinematography as well as sound design of the film is a solid testament to the immaculate talent as well as ingenuity each individual possesses. Thanks to their innovative approach, they have managed to create a cinematic experience which truly captivates the audience’s senses and seamlessly manages to leave a long-lasting impression on the viewers. 

Editing & VFX

Hybrid Animals
Hybrid Animals in “Poor Things” | Credit: Searchlight Pictures

The entire editing process of the film took approximately eight months. Around two weeks after the shooting phase of the film was complete, the director and the editor, Yorgos Mavropsaridis, sat down and refined the scenes as per the script’s order. After the first cut was completed, they decided to shake things up and alter the chronology or order of the scenes.

The VFX of “Poor Things” was done by a BAFTA winning on-set supervisor from Union Effects. Yorgos didn’t want to use a greenscreen, which is why when it came to the scenes featuring hybrid animals, one animal was shot first, followed by the second, and then they were comped in together. The film involved a VFX-heavy job but in the end, the experienced team got it all done with perfection. 

Uniqueness of Yorgos

LA Times
Yorgos Lanthimos | Credit: LA Times

It’s all going to sound a bit nightmarish for any ADs or film crew members reading this article, but there was no storyboard (except for a few complicated scenes). Moreover, there was no shoot order either. It was a follow-the-gut kind of production. The only thing established in the pre-production phase was the choice of lenses. It is important to note that there were only five lenses used. They were switched based on the essence of the scene and the emotional response Yorgos wanted to bring out from the audience. 

For instance, the 4mm lens was used to create the wide fisheye shot to disorient the audience a little and also make them feel closer to the characters, i.e., as if they have stepped into a portal into their world.

The sets were built to realistic dimensions using realistic materials. A unique world was created thanks to a blend of modern and old filmmaking techniques. Yorgos’ trademark bizarreness was achieved, with his dark humor and absurdist themes. The film was executed meticulously, all while his set maintained a sense of relaxedness, just the way he likes it. 

Tech Specs

Here is a closer look at the specifications of the tech used to bring “Poor Things” to life:

Cameras: Arricam ST, LT; Beaumont “Beaucam”

Lenses: Lomography Petzval (rehoused by TLS); Leica APO Summicron-R, Telyt-R; Arri/Zeiss Ultra Prime, Master Zoom; Oppenheimer/Nikkor; OpTex Super Cine; Angénieux Optimo zoom

Film Stocks: Kodak Vision3 500T 5219, Eastman Double-X 5222, Ektachrome 100D 5294 

Festival Reception and Postponed Release

The Hollywood Reporter
The Entire Cast of “Poor Things” | Credit: The Hollywood Reporter

“Poor Things” started garnering a lot of praise and acclaim at all the film festivals it featured in. However, the film faced multiple challenges during its later-than-anticipated release and promotion. 

Fortunately, the team’s collaborative spirit which propagated its creation amidst all obstacles remained intact. The cast along with the crew members remained united to make sure that the movie reached the audience. 

While the unprecedented postpone might have hindered the initial momentum the team was targeting to achieve, the film eventually found its audience and resonated with them. The film was immensely appreciated for its bold narrative and storytelling as well as its thematic depth. The rest, as they say, is history.  

Final Thoughts

In cinematic history’s annals, the film “Poor Things” will forever be remembered not merely as a remarkable, groundbreaking piece of art, but also as a solid testament to the power which collaboration and creativity hold. 

Right from its inception till the final release day, the film’s overall journey is an exemplification to the persistent magic of storytelling as well as the boundless potential that the human imagination holds within itself. 

As viewers continue unpacking the multiple layers of meanings and symbolisms the film features, “Poor Things” will stand out through ages as a beacon of mighty inspiration for many generations to come, inviting audiences to commence on a journey featuring self-discovery and true enlightenment. 


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