poor creatures

Edvard Munch, 1920


Considerations about the film directed by Yorgos Lanthimos

The film poor creatures, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, delves into a surreal and provocative narrative that addresses the intersection between desire, control and identity revealing the depths of the human psyche. Receiving 11 Oscar nominations, through the journey of Bella Baxter, captivatingly played by Emma Stone, the film exposes the complexities of female maturation in the midst of an oppressive and limiting society.

The plot unfolds around Bella, a figure whose uniqueness transcends the limits of conventional understanding. She is an amalgam of disparate elements, from her own physical makeup to her social interactions. Under the meticulous manipulation of physician Dr. Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe), ironically nicknamed Good (God in English), Bella is presented to the world with a modified body, a marvel of science that houses her own son's brain. This extraordinary physical peculiarity not only highlights the bizarre and surrealistic nature of the film's universe, but also serves as a powerful metaphor for the eternal battle between desire and control.

By carrying her son's brain with her, Bella embodies the fusion of two existences, two distinct identities united into a single physical entity. This fusion not only challenges conventional notions of individuality and identity, but also sheds light on the complex interplay between motherhood, autonomy and sacrifice. The presence of her son within her is not just a physical peculiarity, but a vivid manifestation of Bella's inner conflict between her own wants and desires and the expectations placed upon her by society and male authority figures.

Thus, Bella's metamorphosis is not just a physical transformation, but also a journey of self-discovery and empowerment. Her existence transcends the limits of normality and conformity, defying social and cultural conventions that try to fit her into predefined standards. In this sense, the protagonist's physical peculiarity is not just an odd feature of the plot, but rather a central element that feeds the film's broader narrative about freedom, individuality, and the never-ending search for the true meaning of existence.

In this context, Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic analysis and the work Eros and Civilization by Herbert Marcuse emerge as valuable lenses for understanding the layers of meaning present in poor creatures. Freud, with his theory of the unconscious and primitive impulses, sheds light on the duality of desires and drives that permeate the characters' actions. Bella, in her quest for autonomy, confronts not only the external restrictions imposed by figures like Dr. Baxter and her husband Alfie (Christopher Abbott), but also the internal conflicts between her own impulses and social expectations.

From the first moments of the film, we are introduced to the clash between desire and control, a dynamic that permeates Bella's journey, a figure who embodies the fight for autonomy in the midst of a world that tries to restrict her movements. In this context, we can see the influence of Freudian theory on the conflict between the id, the ego and the superego. Bella, with her free and uninhibited desire, represents the id, the instinctive and impulsive part of the psyche, while figures such as Dr. Godwin Baxter and Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo) represent the superego, imposing restrictions and social norms on the protagonist.

Bella's relationship with her creator, Dr. Baxter, is especially interesting in light of Freudian theories. He not only shapes her physically, but also tries to control her desires and experiences, reflecting the concept of the Oedipus complex and the father figure as the regulating agent of desire. Bella's constant struggle against this control symbolizes the search for emancipation and the fulfillment of repressed desires. This dynamic also explores themes addressed by Freud in The Malaise in Civilization, investigating the tensions between instinctive impulses and social demands. The figure of Dr. Baxter, molding Bella's body, echoes institutional oppression, highlighting the clash between desire and control present in both the film and Freud's work.

Furthermore, the work dialogues with Herbert Marcuse's ideas about the repressive society and the need for an erotic revolution to break the bonds of civilization. In Eros and Civilization, Marcuse argues that the repression of natural impulses by the social system results in a repressed and alienated society. In poor creatures, we see this repression manifested in attempts to control Bella by the men in her life, representing the power structures that seek to subjugate individual desires for the sake of social conformity.

Furthermore, Herbert Marcuse offers a critical perspective on repressive society and its structures of control. The film vividly portrays the constant attempt of men like Dr. Baxter, Duncan and Alfie to subjugate and dominate Bella, reflecting the mechanisms of oppression present in patriarchal society. Bella's fight for emancipation and self-determination is therefore an act of resistance against these coercive forces.

Bella's journey, marked by discoveries and confrontations with external control, reflects the need for erotic liberation, where desire is no longer repressed, but celebrated as a vital and creative force. Yorgos Lanthimos' surreal and provocative approach invites us to question established norms and seek a new form of existence, where individual freedom and the authentic expression of desires are valued.

The film's aesthetic, marked by the combination of surrealist and fantastic elements, reinforces the atmosphere of strangeness and alienation that permeates Bella's journey. The art direction, costumes and soundtrack contribute to creating a visually striking world, where the grotesque and the beautiful intertwine in an intriguing way.

In short, poor creatures constitutes a profound reflection on the complex themes of desire, control and identity. By exploring these aspects, the work not only invites us to reflect on the impact of civilization on individuals, but also provides us with an engaging and provocative cinematic experience. Ultimately, it stands out as a narrative that pushes the boundaries of the genre, offering a penetrating and fascinating insight into the intricacies of the human condition.

*Bruno Fabricio Alcebino da Silva He is majoring in International Relations and Economic Sciences at the Federal University of ABC (UFABC).


poor creatures (Poor things)
USA, UK and Northern Ireland, 2023, 141 minutes
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Cast: Emma Stone, Willem Dafoe, Christopher Abbott, Mark Ruffalo


Freud, S. (1930). Civilization's Discontents. In Complete Works of Sigmund Freud (Vol. XXI). Imago Editora.

Freud, S. (1900). The interpretation of dreams. Standard Edition, 4 and 5.

Marcuse, H. (1955). Eros and Civilization. Beacon Press.

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