The Oscar-nominated set design for Poor Things aimed to create a “1930s studio movie with today’s technology“. The black comedy Poor Things, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, tells the story of Bella, played by Emma Stone, who has a child’s mind trapped inside a woman’s body – a plotline that affects the design of the sets.

Ninety percent of the action in the film takes place on large sets in Budapest, where the film was shot, with only a small part of it filmed in existing locations.

To create the interior for Bella’s home – built as large sets – Shona Heath and James Price (who created the film’s production design) took inspiration from the neo-classical Sir John Soanes Museum in London, which is filled with paintings, antiques, and artworks collected by its owner in the 19th century.

Using contrasts and textures, the artists also focused on “splicing up” the architecture in a similar way to how Willem Dafoe‘s character splices together animals and other subjects.

Despite the majority of the first act being set inside Bella’s home and the operating theater where Baxter creates hybrid animals (including a dog-chicken creature and a goat with a duck-like head), the film quickly moves on to depict Bella’s journey.

For these scenes, which take up most of the film, Heath and Price created a colorful set design that underlines the difference between Bella’s black-and-white upbringing and her coming-of-age experiences.

Some of the architectural references used for Lisbon were “quite modern“, according to Price, who named the work of Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill as an example.

Photos: Courtesy of Searchlight

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Still can't tell exactly my origins because of my suspiciously ‘Chinese eyes’.