Poor Things sends us through an educational arc where incomprehension leads to satisfying understanding. Set in the 19th century, a time when humans labored to surpass an infantile understanding of the mechanics of the world, where wacky inventions came from the wildest imaginations, and machinery was a clunky mass of gears, cranks, and glass tubes, the creators of this film have taken it up a hundred notches re-imagining this time in history.
During the Age of Enlightenment, medical science perceived that man could conquer the god-like skills of creating life without the use of an egg and sperm. After all, this was the century during which Frankenstein was written by a young woman in her teens.
Dissection of human cadavers and medical experimentation had few barriers. Poor Things supposes the most extreme possibilities of both human and animal reanimation and transplantation. Dog head on duck body; pig head on dog body, both beings behaving and functioning perfectly well. So, any self-respecting medical scientist of the time should be perfectly able to transplant a living infant brain into the head of a dead woman, all the better if she is its own suicidal mother.
The film is shot in black and white up until Bella, the mother with the baby brain, leaves the safe cocoon of her creator’s home and launches herself into the world, actively gorging on learning and knowledge. Gone are the two-dimensional shades of gray because the world outside boils over with color. The sublime flavors of food and drink, the extravagant shapes of structures and nature, and even musical instruments take on wild tones and abilities. Bella, basically an unsupervised toddler, faces potential death at every turn.
Bella discovers and is consumed with the sensations of orgasm. Her immature brain wants what it wants without suffering from modesty or decorum. Sex is fun, and therefore, it should be engaged in often. She is a desirable woman, so her life is advanced through sex and what it can get her.
When she is shown human suffering and that hell exists on earth, Bella plants her feet on the ground, determined to advance her brain so that she can change the world for the better.
But the largest answer escapes her – why did the mother of the baby, both of whom she now inhabits, jump to her death in the first place?
As her thick black hair never stops growing, Bella never stops advancing. When her creator, aka Godwin, or God for short, dies, leaving her his surgical suite and all his breakthroughs, Bella uses her knowledge, both medical and sexual, to right a massive wrong, ultimately succeeding in reducing suffering in the world.
Poor Things is a masterpiece because it gives us a point of view that is new, bold, and unlikely. When artists of today can imagine things so non-existent such as what is contained in Poor Things, history is made.