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Cinematographer Robbie Ryan: Director Yorgos Lanthimos Worked Crafts Magic on ‘Poor Things’

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Will Tizard Contributor Robbie Ryan says “becoming a diplomat and a bit of a politician” was one of the key skills he learned while filming “Poor Things,” the surrealist Frankenstein-esque adventure by Yorgos Lanthimos, starring Emma Stone and Willem Dafoe.

The film screened at the Camerimage cinematography festival in Torun, Poland, where director of photography Ryan and Dafoe presented it to a packed screening hall on the fest’s opening night. “That’s something I wasn’t expecting,” adds the Irish cinematographer known for his previous collaboration with Lanthimos, also starring Stone, “The Favorite.” As Ryan explains, the crafts departments on “Poor Things” were all doing such remarkable work – from Shona Heath’s and James Price’s production design to Holly Waddington’s costumes and Johnnie Burn’s sound design – that he had to learn how to win them over to his side when he needed something special to get a shot.

Using two cranes, for example, to hoist vast lighting and diffusion structures needed for a London wintry street sequence actually shot in Hungary in summer, required a major production commitment that would affect all departments, says Ryan.

But ask for it he did, to produce a striking scene in which audiences see Stone’s Bella, a woman reanimated from the dead by the brilliant scientist Baxter (Dafoe), taking charge of her life after struggling to find her way through the world with an implanted baby’s brain.

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