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Yorgos Lanthimos’ “Poor Things” Wins Best Film at Venice Festival

Yorgos Lanthimos Poor Things
The film, starring Emma Stone, Willem Dafoe, and Mark Ruffalo, is an exploration of female empowerment and liberation. Credit: Anna Hanks / Wikimedia Commons cc by 2.0

Yorgos Lanthimos secured the Golden Lion, the top prize at the 80th Venice Film Festival, for his latest work, Poor Things. The film, starring Emma Stone, Willem Dafoe, and Mark Ruffalo, is an exploration of female empowerment and liberation.

Adapted from Alistair Gray’s eponymous novel and scripted by Tony McNamara, the Greek director presents a fresh take on the Frankenstein myth. Poor Things serves as a provocative commentary on topics such as sexual freedom, class disparities, individual and societal self-determination, desire, and love.

During his acceptance speech, Lanthimos expressed gratitude to the festival, his crew, and partners, remarking, that it took some years for the film industry to be ready for a film like this. He acknowledged the absence of screenwriter Tony McNamara, who was unable to attend due to a strike by American screenwriters and offered his support to their cause.

Lanthimos also extended thanks to his partner, Ariane (Lambed), and praised Emma Stone, who portrayed the film’s central character, Bella Baxter, as “an incredible creature.”

The Film’s Plot

Poor Things, which received acclaim at its Venice Film Festival premiere, is a contemporary reimagining of the Frankenstein legend, inspired by Alistair Gray’s award-winning 1992 novel. The story unfolds in the Victorian era, replacing the traditional monster with Bella, a beautiful young woman who escapes her abusive husband by taking her own life.

An eccentric scientist, Godwin Baxter, resurrects Bella but with the cognitive capacity of a child. Eager to explore life, she embarks on a journey with Duncan, a morally ambiguous lawyer. Liberated from the constraints and prejudices of her time, Bella becomes an advocate for equality and freedom.

During a press conference at the Venice festival, Lanthimos delved into the unique nature of the film. He described it as challenging to categorize and explained that they drew inspiration from the novel while making some structural adjustments. He emphasized that the film centers on Bella’s character and her perspective as a fearless and open-minded woman navigating the world on her own terms. He also highlighted that the film preserves the novel’s essence, humor, heroes, style, and core themes.

Other Festival Awards

Agnieszka Holland, a Polish director, received a special jury award for Green Border, a film depicting the refugee crisis on the Belarus-Poland border.

Alex Braverman won the best documentary prize for Thank You Very Much, a tribute to comedian Andy Kaufman.

Love is a Gun, the directorial debut of Taiwanese actor Lee Hong-chi, earned the Lion of the Future prize for best first feature.

In the Horizons sidebar, Hungarian drama Explanation for Everything, by Gabor Reisz, won the best film award, while Swedish filmmaker Mika Gustafson was named the best director for Paradise Is Burning.

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