Did you notice my plastic smile?
‘The Dolls with Attitude’ – Synopsis
Eri is always mollifying people with a fake smile on her face. One day, she turns into a doll with the same grin permanently frozen in place. No one notices, however, that she has transformed into a doll. Soon thereafter, she is discovered on the street by a talent scout, and she becomes a popular singing idol. A large number of people imitate Eri’s appearance, gradually taking on her fake smile over time. In order to change her situation, Eri takes real action for the first time in her life.
ADFEST2017-THE FABULOUS FOUR / Commendation (Best short film) & Popular vote
‘The Dolls with Attitude’ – Review
This short film might seem extreme or exaggerated to some people but those who are familiar with Japan’s culture could probably relate and understand this film.
If you don’t already know, Japanese are extremely polite people. It is an inherent part of their society and culture. They go such great efforts to not cause any harm or discomfort to others around them, sometimes not even their friends or family. In fact, I recently read an article written by Lee Tulloch, on Japanese politeness where a Japanese director of a not-for-profit project, Hima Furuta says “We feel we could be a lot better. I expect Japanese people to have good manners all the time.” For any foreigner, this would seem extreme, but humility and politeness are an important part of the social fabric of Japanese society.
Politeness can be translated to Japanese word ‘Teinei’ (Kanji -丁寧; Hiragana-ていねい) but this word is not limited to politeness. It carries a plethora of definitions and meanings with it.Teinei encompasses modesty, thoughtfulness, unselfish tendencies and so much more – Shreya Bhattacharya Click To Tweet
One of the meanings of Teinei is also reigning in your emotions in order to avoid creating a scene of causing discomfort to other people. You can find out more about the essence of Teinei from an article in Japan Times: Politeness Beyond Words by Amy Chavez
For one, this short film gives a keen insight into the Japanese culture from the perspective of youth. In this highly individualistic world today, Japanese culture still strongly believes in community and togetherness dominates over individuality. For many, there is a dark side to Teinei and constantly bottling up your feelings. Eri is the example of exactly this. Because Eri has been suppressing her emotions since she was a child and ever since only shown her bright and cheery expressions even to her friends and family, her face turns in a doll’s face.
Why a doll? Because dolls are always smiling, just like Eri. But, the funny thing is that no one notices that Eri’s face has changed into a doll’s.
The acting is really well-done, despite the lead wearing a mask throughout the film her emotions are alive and as a viewer, I could connect with her almost immediately. Also, the narration was fabulous. It was stimulating and interactive and kept me wanting to know more. It made me want to figure out who the real Eri was and when I did find out, I wanted to console her, wrap her into a big warm hug let her know that it is okay to let out your emotions.
The direction of the film is also brilliant; the whole flow of the movie is tailored to perfection. The plot is superb, interesting and relevant. Each and every aspect of the film seems to have been well thought-out and executed. Although the twist at the end is dark, but it makes more sense than a typical happily-ever-after type of ending.
Would I recommend this movie? In a heartbeat!
Deciphering the Plot
In the beginning, Eri is seen with the ideal smiling doll-face. One day she realizes that no matter how hard she tries, she can’t change the expression on her face. After years of forcing a fake smiling and hiding all her emotions, her face has transformed into that of a doll itself. But the sad thing is that no one notices the change; her plastic smile. The doll-face mask has become a part of her and she has to live with it. In fact, her fake face and the plastic smile gets her scouted and turns her into a popular idol as well. She is loved for her perfect doll-like face and smile.
But, one day, Eri finally gains the courage to stop all the pretence and tries to break her mask in order to bring back her old face but her old face has disappeared. Under the mask, there is only emptiness.
I think the movie sends a powerful message about how society has certain expectations from you and if you deviate from those expectations then you are tagged as abnormal or a menace. So in order to conform to those expectations, many individuals lose their uniqueness and identity. It leaves you a hollow shell of the person you were and when Eri tried to go back to being herself, she realized that she doesn’t know her own identity so she continues living under a façade.
Of course, this is simply my interpretation of the plot, I might be completely off-track but this is how I felt after seeing this movie. Tell me if you have some other interpretations of the plot!
Have you seen ‘The Dolls with Attitude’? What do you think about it? If not, watch it on the film’s director Naoya Yamaguchi’s website.