Unveiling the Most Riveting Moment in ‘Poor Things’: Insights from Director Yorgos Lanthimos and Cinematographer Robbie Ryan

Unveiling the Most Riveting Moment in 'Poor Things'

Yorgos Lanthimos’ latest film, “Poor Things,” takes viewers on a journey across five diverse locations: London, Paris, a ship, Alexandria, and Lisbon. This presented a significant challenge for production designers James Price and Shona Heath.

Among these locations, creating the setting of Lisbon proved to be particularly demanding. Cinematographer Robbie Ryan, alongside Lanthimos himself, faced the task of capturing the essence of this vibrant city. Departing from the monochromatic streets of Victorian-era London and Godwin’s residence, viewers are transported into a pastel-colored world upon Bella Baxter’s (played by Emma Stone) departure.

For Ryan and Lanthimos, accustomed to working with natural lighting and outdoor scenes, this presented a new and complex challenge. They had to adapt their approach to suit the demands of creating the picturesque backdrop of Lisbon, complete with a soundstage featuring a water tank for the ocean view. Overall, bringing the varied locations of “Poor Things” to life required creativity, ingenuity, and a willingness to adapt to new filming conditions.

Here, both Lanthimos and Ryan share their thoughts on their inaugural collaboration and how they worked together on “Poor Things.”

“It was truly an exciting experience for both of us to collaborate for the first time,” says Lanthimos. “Robbie brought a unique perspective to the project, and his expertise in cinematography enriched the visual storytelling of the film.”

Ryan adds, “Working with Yorgos was a fantastic opportunity. His distinct vision challenged me to push the boundaries of my craft. Together, we explored innovative ways to capture the essence of each location in ‘Poor Things,’ ensuring that the film’s visual narrative was both compelling and immersive.”

Their collaboration on “Poor Things” exemplifies the power of teamwork and creative synergy in bringing a cinematic vision to life.

How Did the Two of You First Meet?

Yorgos Lanthimos reflects, “I had an idea to collaborate on a short film with him in London, but unfortunately, it never materialized.”

Robbie Ryan reminisces, “Ah yes, that was the one where two guys stand together, and there’s a gunshot through their heads.”

Lanthimos interjects, “But that project never came to fruition.”

Ryan continues, “It was a bit chaotic trying to coordinate, but eventually, we made it work.”

Lanthimos adds, “We also discussed the possibility of collaborating on ‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer,’ but that didn’t pan out either.”

Their journey of collaboration is marked by missed opportunities and shared aspirations, highlighting the unpredictability of creative partnerships.

Working at Hatfield House in “The Favourite”: A Glimpse into History and Glamour

Ryan recalls, “When we visited Hatfield House, the usual question arose: how many lights would we need? I remember Yorgos boldly declaring, ‘I don’t want any lights. We’ll use candles.’ His decision was based on the location’s natural daylight, especially the beautiful bay windows that created a unique atmosphere appreciated by everyone. Opting for candles was a brave choice, but the result is stunning in the film.”

Lanthimos reflects, “In my earlier films in Greece, we started with natural practical lighting due to budget constraints. Despite lacking confidence initially, we found that we could achieve the desired look without additional lights and makeup. This approach resonated with me, questioning the necessity of extra lighting when the exposure was adequate.”

He continues, “My collaboration with Emma began with ‘The Favourite,’ and Olivia had a small role in ‘The Lobster.’ They were surprised initially by our shooting style—moving the camera and proceeding to the next shot without elaborate setups. However, it became our signature approach.”

Their shared commitment to natural lighting and fluid camera movement reflects a creative ethos focused on authenticity and efficiency in filmmaking.

Exploring “Poor Things”: Conversations on Themes and Visual Concepts

Lanthimos reflects, “At the beginning of each project, our direction is quite open-ended. I typically express, ‘We accomplished something with ‘The Favourite,’ and now we’re going to explore something slightly different, perhaps building upon our previous work.'”

Ryan adds, “Yorgos had the vision to shoot using zoom lenses and develop scenes where actors could perform the entire sequence in one take. This approach served as the foundation for the film, providing cohesion to the narrative. While wide-angle shots offer simplicity, working with zoom lenses requires precision and attention to detail.”

Their collaborative process emphasizes experimentation and evolution, as they continually seek to innovate and refine their craft with each project.

Navigating the Visual Transition: From Black and White to Color in Different Worlds

Ryan remarks, “The black-and-white aesthetic carries a rich texture that transports viewers back to that era. However, the decision behind this was to create a striking contrast with the vibrant color world that follows, offering a refreshing change of pace in the film. The transition to Ektachrome in Lisbon serves as a visual curtain, marking a significant shift.”

He continues, “We began shooting on 35mm Ektachrome late in the day without prior testing. Unfortunately, the stock wasn’t readily available, making it challenging to procure and test. Despite its limitations, such as the need for ample light and limited availability, we were drawn to its unique qualities. We had to carefully consider where it would best fit within the narrative and how to overcome practical challenges.”

Lanthimos adds, “Since Ektachrome was scarce, we had to strategize its usage based on both narrative and practical considerations. The production and costume design departments played a crucial role in shaping the film’s palette, conducting thorough research to capture the essence of each location. Additionally, the choice of shooting format added another layer of depth to the visual storytelling.”

Their meticulous approach to integrating different visual elements highlights the collaborative effort involved in crafting the film’s distinct aesthetic.

Capturing Intensity: The Most Challenging Scene to Shoot and Set Up

Ryan reflects, “Filming in Lisbon presented its own set of challenges, primarily due to its larger scale and the difficulty in achieving the desired lighting. One major obstacle was the distance; we were shooting in a studio two hours away from our main studio, making it challenging for me to visit frequently for preparations. In contrast, the other sets were conveniently located nearby.”

Lanthimos adds, “Lisbon posed unique challenges, especially considering its expansive set. Emma had to navigate through the set with numerous extras, all within the confines of a studio rather than a real exterior location. We had to employ various techniques to create the illusion of size and depth, which added to the complexity of the shoot.”

Their collaboration underscores the importance of problem-solving and creativity in overcoming logistical hurdles during filming.

Also Read: Japan Launches Inaugural Round of Funding for Location Production Incentive Program

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