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Yorgos Lanthimos

Poor Things – Yorgos Lanthimos (2023)

What a wonderfully weird film! Lanthimos has made some weird films that I had a hard to to find to watch, but later on he managed to get actors such as Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman and I suppose that made his star rise to the height he deserves.

Willem Dafoe looks even weirder than in “The Lighthouse” as scientist who was both the student and the test subject of his father. He looks quite like Frankenstein in this Frankenstein-type story. Godwin (abbreviated to “God”) is not the ‘Frankenstein’ in this film though. Godwin Baxter found the body of a pregnant woman who threw herself off a bridge. He decides that his next experiment will be to transplant the brains of an unborn child into the body of a grown woman. So, Bella (played by Emma Stone) came to be.

Bella appears to be a retarded young woman, but -as mentioned- she is actually a woman with a child’s brain that is still in development. Baxter tries to keep her close in order to create a scientifically save testing environment. As her brain develops, Bella becomes more independent.

Bella goes on an adventure, first to Portugal and later to other countries in Europe and Northern Africa. There she learns the ways of sex, people and the world, but still with an undeveloped brain. Indeed, there is quite a bit of sex in the film, but not as much nudity as some reviewers suggest.

The whole story is set in a beautiful 1920’ies looking future thus giving the film a surrealistic atmosphere that you may know from directors such as Jeunet, Burton or Lee. Perhaps it is also this somewhat more familiar strangeness that allows “Poor Things” to be played in ‘regular cinemas’.

In any case, Stone is both childish and alluring, some of the scenes are beautiful, there are critical looks on modern life, odd dialogues and a very rapid coming of age.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer – Yorgos Lanthimos (2017)

For some reason I had a hard time being able to watch this film. Lanthimos’ earlier weird films such as “Dogtooth” (2009) and “The Lobster” (2015) did relatively well for such films, so I expected this film to get the same attention and thus availability. Perhaps it was overshadowed by the much more ‘normal’ “The Favourite” (2018)?

In a way, “The Killing” lays between “The Favourite” and the other mentioned films. It is not as strange as the earlier films, but not as ‘normal’ as the latter.

Steven Murphy (Collin Farrell) is a successful doctor who lives a perfect life with his wife (the ever beautiful, yet skinny, Nicole Kidman) and two children. His record is not entirely blameless though and he is in contact with Martin, the son of a man who died during an operation.

Both Martin and Steven and his family are tryingly correct, but as the film continues, it becomes obvious that the persuasive Martin holds Steven responsible for the death of his father and is out for revenge.

The film has a ‘slightly off’ atmosphere with some odd scenes, but it is mostly a slow burning psychological thriller.

The Favourite – Yorgos Lanthimos (2018)

After some very weird films, the Greek director Lanthimos made a very British and fairly normal film.

A sickly Queen Anne is assisted by a ruthless Lady Marlborough who handles affairs in her own way and who has a peculiar way of influencing the Queen.

Then a fallen lady arrived at the court. Lady Sarah tries to restore her nobility and while she is at it, become the Queens favourite in Marlborough’s stead. A bitter feud raises between the two women.

Indeed, Lanthimos made a costume drama in which the only strange elements are the camera-work. There is an over-use of the fish-eye lens and some strange camera movements.

The film makes a nice watch, but it reminds more of a film like “Marie Antoinette” than of the two other Lanthimoses that I have seen so far. Of course a director can play with styles.

The Lobster – Yorgos Lanthimos (2015)

  • drama

The Greek director Lanthimos already made some absurdistic films, but this time he managed to produce an international film. We follow a man (Collin Farrell) whose wife leaves him. In the next scene he checks into a hotel of which it soon becomes clear that it is some sort of institution to teach “loners” to find a partner so they can return to society, known as “the city”.

The hotel has all kinds of weird rules and even weirder ways of teaching their inhabitents the ways of love. At some point David (Farrell) flees the hotel and ends up in a third world, that of the people who live in the forest and who (either or not by choice) have no life-partners.

This results in a very absurdistic film in which everything is different from what we are used to ourselves. Still many elements are recognisable.

Indeed, inspite of the international production, Lanthimos still forces his strange ideas of the world upon his audience.

You must have a strange kind of humour to enjoy this film. When you know, and like, Lanthimos’ earlier productions, you do not have to fear this being a bigger, and English, production. If Lanthimos is new to you, be prepared for something out-of-the-ordinary.

Κυνόδοντας * Giorgos Lanthimos (2009)

“Kynodontas” (“Dogtooth”) is a very strange Greek film with absurdistic drama that could have come from Scandinavia. A man tries to prevent his two daughters and son to become infected with the outside world by keeping them separated in his house with large garden far away from the civilised world. He tries to control their entire life by giving them exercises, language lessons (with strange explanations of words), medical education, etc. Naturally the children are not quite ‘normal’ which results in some nicely suppressed humorous scenes, especially when the outside world comes creeping in inspite of the man’s efforts. The film is very slow and raises a lot of questions that are not answered. In fact, the film ends as suddenly as it begins and just when things start to become interesting. If you want a film which gives you a nice, clean story, this one will not be for you. When you want to have a look at a strange psychological experiment, “Kynodontas” could be something.