In What Is Beauty? Filmmaker Anna Ginsburg runs us through a two minute history of the definition of the beautiful woman in art and media, all the way from 28000BC to the present day.
Moving rapidly, but leaving enough time for viewers to recognise famous figures of beauty – the Venus De Milo, Marilyn Monroe and Kim Kardashian – Ginsburg uses a one-shot style of animation that allows us to see the female body morph to the standards history has placed upon it, while also celebrating the wide diversity of women’s bodies that have been praised as beautiful.
The film also highlights the physical toll that living up to some beauty standards can take on the actual human body, with waists being squeezed into corsets, breasts being filled and strapped down, and women being stretched in half. Despite the pleasant pastel shades of purple, there is a violent urgency to the way that the women are moulded into the new definition of beauty, only to be re-shaped seconds later as that definition changes.
The final part of the animation takes more of a focus on the rise of social media and its effect on the way we view and respond to beauty standards. Sure, impossible standards have always been around in paintings and photographs, but now it’s easy to open Instagram and scroll through endless examples of people attaining the ‘perfect’ body, which is often unattainable to many and may even only be achievable with surgery.
Ginsburg urges us in the closing text of What Is Beauty? to notice how rapidly the definition of beauty changes. It may be an idea that’s been addressed frequently in plenty of other short films and think pieces, but this is a beautiful film that celebrates the range of shapes and sizes women exist in while delivering its poignant message.
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DIRECTOR: Anna Ginsburg
WRITER: Anna Ginsburg
SYNOPSIS: Anna Ginsburg examines the history of the beauty standards presented to women through art and media between 28000BC and the present day.