“Poor Creatures”: the baroque tale of Yorgos Lanthimos

“Poor Creatures”: the baroque tale of Yorgos Lanthimos


Revealed in 2009 with Canine , a sparkling film about the family as a place of control and unhealthy distortion of reality, of Bunuelian inspiration, the Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos, 50 years old, has since continued – at the risk of suffocation, it must be admitted – a work marked by a taste for the unusual, assumed artificiality and the exploration of an insatiable desire to subjugate the world.

Passed in 2015, with The Lobster , on the international side of the force (Anglo-Saxon casting and language), here he is back from the Venice Film Festival with the Golden Lion awarded to Poor Creatures , title which does not deviate an inch from this consummate art of baroque storytelling and brackish water driving. We can, however, think that he waters down, for the first time, the horror by this time pushing the fires of wonder and humor.

Adapted from the homonymous novel by the prolific Scottish writer Alasdair Gray (Bloomsbury Publishing, 1992, translated in 2003 by Métailié), Poor Creatures resembles, in fact, the marriage of two great figures and literary movements born in 19th century England: the Gothic Frankenstein , by Mary Shelley, and the fantasy of Alice in Wonderland , by Lewis Carroll. This literary chimera serves here, given the times, as a story of feminist emancipation of which the main character, Bella Baxter (Emma Stone), is the radiant center. A woman in a blue satin dress, raising the curtain, throws herself, under a black sky, into the turbid water of a river.

Accession to self-determination

One shot later, the viewer is invited to discover the rich home of a renowned London surgeon, Professor Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe), in whose garden goose-headed dogs and other prodigies emerging from the scalpel wander of the good doctor, himself sophisticated enough to plunge into a certain discomfort everyone who meets him.

Here we discover, among the local creatures, the beautiful drowned woman, of whom we soon learn that the scientist has fished out the body and brought her back to life by transplanting the brain of the child she wore.

This clear variation on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein therefore immediately reverses all the signs. The obtuse and hideous creature immortalized in the cinema by Boris Karloff (1887-1969) is replaced by the playful grace of Emma Stone. The ontological curse of a being covered in dead flesh is replaced by the intact brilliance of a young mother who becomes a daughter of her own works. The tragic destiny of the golemish return to dust is replaced by a solar and Epicurean story of formation of the accession to self-determination.

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