Text by MUSE Team

Yorgos Lanthimos’ new film is a triptych of fables that follows the life of a man trying to take control of his own life, a policeman alarmed by the return of a missing person, and a determined woman destined to transform into a prodigious spiritual leader.

Kinds of Kindness, the new film by Yorgos Lanthimos, is a fable in three acts: a man with no choice trying to take control of his life; a policeman worried that his wife, who disappeared at sea, has returned and seems like another person; and a woman determined to find a specific person with a special ability, destined to become a prodigious spiritual leader. Over the years, the film has taken on various narrative forms, finally evolving into an anthology: “We started with one story, but as we worked, we realized it would be interesting to make a film with a different structure from what we had done before,” explains Lanthimos. “Identifying the subsequent stories, we wanted to maintain a thematic thread, so that it all seemed to belong to the same set

Margaret Qualley, Jesse Plemons and Willem Dafoe in Kinds of Kindness. In the top image: Willem Dafoe, Jesse Plemons and Hong Chau.

“With an anthology, you bring whatever you’ve been thinking about from the first story into the next. It is more complex and more engaging. Different people identify different themes, which is extremely interesting”.

– Yorgos Lanthimos

In the first story, Plemons plays Robert, a diligent employee whose routine is dictated and controlled – from meals to sexual activities – by his boss, Raymond (Willem Dafoe). Strange gifts from Raymond to him give way to even stranger demands, but Robert’s dedication, bordering on romanticism, to his paternalistic boss ensures a tortuous moral dilemma: also thanks to the presence of minor roles populated by characters like Emma Stone, Joe Alwyn, Hong Chau, and Margaret Qualley, this twisted fable about male expectations takes Lanthimos’ tonal approach back several years while simultaneously pushing his visual style forward.

Emma Stone and Joe Alwyin.

“One of the aspects explored in the film is people’s desire for control: controlling one’s own life, controlling the lives of others, feeling controlled by someone else and trying to find it again”.

– Margaret Qualley

All the typical characteristics of Lanthimos’ writing are newly wrapped by cinematographer Robbie Ryan, who captures New Orleans as Paul Thomas Anderson captured Los Angeles in Licorice Pizza: a place of sweaty nights, with pungent high-contrast colors and neon signs that bombard the senses. The dissonance between this visual vibrancy and the cold, calculating nature of the characters is particularly present in the second story, in which Plemons plays police officer Daniel, who sees in the criminals he ends up arresting the face of his wife who disappeared at sea. Plemons’ compassion and unhappiness also hark back to the first fable, but when Liz is finally rescued, Daniel’s inability to reconcile with her return leads him down the bizarre path of demanding proof of fidelity in the form of self-mutilation.

Hong Chau and Jesse Plemons.

A common thread in all of Lanthimos’ films, interpreted differently in each of them, is the sense of humor. For Lanthimos, it is an essential aspect of the narrative process, as it is an essential part of human nature: Kinds of Kindness represents this condition, and the key characteristic of his characters is the ability to laugh in the face of adversity. “When we are doomed, the only thing we can do is laugh. It’s almost a kind of existential terror, where there’s despair in trying to transcend these human things that you can’t transcend. Often it ends up being funny, precisely because it’s impossible.”




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