The cinematographer behind Poor Things has revealed how he filmed the movie’s iconic dance scene between Emma Stone and Mark Ruffalo.
Yorgos Lanthimos’ new film Poor Things follows Bella Baxter, played by Stone, who is a grown woman resurrected with the mind of a baby and gradually learns the enormity of the world through a child’s eyes.
In the movie’s stand-out scene, which has gone viral on social media, Bella becomes aware of the concept of dancing at a dinner party and instinctively begins to dance for the first time.
Bella invents her own charmingly bizarre dance movies to the music. And Bella’s beau Duncan Wedderburn, played by actor Ruffalo, can’t resist but engage in a wacky, oddball, and joyous dance sequence with her.
In an interview with Variety, Poor Things‘ cinematographer Robbie Ryan revealed how they exemplified Bella’s newfound lust for life in the way they filmed the film’s wacky dance scene.
Ryan explained that while most of Poor Things was filmed on soundstages, the dance scene was shot on location — which made it more challenging to shoot.
“It was a difficult space to light because it was an old building, and we were put to the challenge on that one,” Ryan says.
As the natural lighting in the old building was weird, the team lit the scene through a big window on the ceiling and blacked out the surrounding windows.
“When Bella starts dancing into the dance floor, Mark [Ruffalo’s] character Duncan goes, ‘Oh my God, she’s so magnetic. I want to be a part of that,’” Ryan says of the dance scene.
“And he jumps up and they start having this really beautiful dance routine that gets more and more elaborate and wild,” Ryan says. “And in the meantime, all of the rest of the restaurant is still just dancing to this song as if it was a normal song.”
A Vignetted Wide Lens to Create a ‘Portal Feel’
According to the cinematographer, Poor Things director Lanthimos wanted to find a vignetted wide lens to “create a portal feel so that you’re looking into another world.”
To create that vignette, Ryan used a Optex Ultra Wide 4mm f/1.8 cine lens made for 16mm camera on a 35mm format.
“Every time we felt the scene needed to go a little bit further, Yorgos would go, ‘Get the 4mm,’” Ryan tells Variety.
“I think it adds to the humor and the broadness of the film in a way because it’s such a statement lens.”
Emma Stone Accidentally Kicked The Camera Lens
In the film, a fight scene breaks out between Ruffalo, Stone, and another guest at the dinner party after the dance. As Ryan was using a wide lens, this meant he had to get a lot closer to the actors to capture the action.
While following Stone, Ryan humorously recalls how the actress kicked back and her boot accidentally hit the camera lens. But, Lanthimos actually decided to keep that accidental detail in the scene.
“He quite likes it because in the soundtrack you can hear her foot hit the lens,” Ryan explains.
“It just all landed very nicely and it was a lot of fun.”