Where and When Does Poor Things Take Place?

Yorgos Lanthimos’ ‘Poor Things’ follows the story of Bella Baxter, a woman with the brain of an infant, who sets out on a journey to educate herself about the ways of the world. She leaves behind her creator, Godwin Baxter, and Max McCandles, Baxter’s assistant who had fallen in love with her and traipses around for a while with Duncan, a man that both Godwin and Max disapprove of. Bella’s journey takes her through many ups and downs, and in all this, the location and time period of her story become its essential elements. SPOILERS AHEAD

Poor Things Take Place in the 19th Century

‘Poor Things’ takes place in the 19th century, though there is a lot that sets its world apart from the real-life 19th century. The Victorian setting allows for the movie and its protagonist to have limitations that are then broken as Bella wades into new waters to explore her desires and dreams. The historical setting brings the movie closer to ‘Frankenstein,’ allowing the audience to use the already existing reference to make connections with the film and grasp its ideas at a deeper level.

The 19th-century setting also sets the ground for the feminist themes of the film by placing Bella in what would seemingly be a more repressed environment for a woman to be liberated from. More interestingly, however, it allows the film to be as absurd as it wants to be because the separation of its time period from reality gives the audience enough space to view the story from Bella’s warped perspective.

Another curious thing about the setting is that while it is historical, it doesn’t necessarily stick to history as a reference point. There is no mention of any historical event that would let the audience know of the specific years or decades in which Bella’s journey might be taking place. This detachment also gives the film the freedom to incorporate other unexpected things in the background, giving it a bit more sci-fi touch. So, rather than being strictly Victorian, it is a Victorian steampunk setting.

The time period of the film also has an impact on the look of the film. It makes the use of black-and-white in the first half of the film more plausible, giving it the look of an old horror gothic flick. Eventually, when the colors arrive, it is almost expected, and the change becomes more meaningful.

Poor Things’ Setting in England

When ‘Poor Things’ begins, it doesn’t necessarily pinpoint a place for its story’s setting, but the accents and the Victorian clothes make it clear that England is the place where the story is taking place. London becomes the heart of the story, where Godwin Baxter remains the entire time while his beloved Bella embarks on a journey that transforms her completely.

For Bella, things begin in London, in her dull and monotonous life, which she is broken out of by Duncan Wedderburn, who whisks her away to Lisbon, promising her adventures unlike she has ever known. The leaving behind of London brings a change in Bella, and as she starts to experience the world and witness it in all its glory and depravity, she starts to learn what it means to live in such a world and how best to go about it. The Lisbon that we see in the film is entirely unlike the real-life Lisbon, right from its roads to the things in the sky. So, while the name of the place may be familiar to the audience, it is still something entirely different than what they might have seen or known.

After a short stay in Lisbon, she is forced on a ship by Duncan, who, by now, has become jealous of her sexual endeavors outside of him. A quick stop at Alexandria brings Bella face to face with the bitter reality that she had known nothing of. This eventually leads her to her political education in Paris, where she finds a profession for herself that not only gives her money but also allows her enough time to pursue her other passions. However, others, especially Duncan, do not favor her choice.

The end of her journey brings Bella back to London, where she meets her dying creator while discovering the truth about her origins. This is also where she must confront the past she’d tried to leave behind, and coming face to face with her past life puts a lot of things in perspective for her.

Read More: Why is Poor Things in Black and White? Why Does it Change into Color?