FILM REVIEW: Human Form 人形3 min readReading Time: 3 minutes
Feeling isolated in a world where everyone wears the same surgically-altered appearance, a young girl takes extreme measures to change her own.
Director: Doyeon Noh
Cast: Si Yeon Kim as In-Hyung, Sun Hee Kang
Runtime: 12 min
Review by Leon Lau
In today’s climate of social media, the pressure to ‘look good’ is higher than ever. We all strive to be the best versions of ourselves, whether its losing weight or getting toned so that we can put out an image that is appealing to the world. But what if there was only one ideal image to strive towards?
Human Form (2014) pushes the concept of beauty norms to the limit, creating a Black Mirror-esque horror dystopian world where everyone has the same surgically altered appearance.
We follow the life of In-Hyung (Si Yeon Kim), a beautiful school girl who only dreams of going through surgery in order to look like everyone else. The idea is absurd for someone so young, and it’s shocking once you see what the beauty norm is for this world. The ‘ideal look’ consists of facial features that are exaggerated with excessively sharp nose bridges, large doll-like eyes and waxy skin.
Director Doyeon Noh brings this strange look to life with a combination of practical masks and CGI, to create an uncomfortable otherworldly look. Characters look just human enough to be familiar but the proportions are so exaggerated that it comes off as alien. The makeup team here should be commended for pulling off such a uniquely disturbing look.
The reason why all of this is so unnerving is because of how relevant Human Form’s themes are today. Plastic surgery is huge in Korea and is only gaining momentum in the rest of the world. Even in Singapore more and more teenagers are opting to go under the knife, with a third of the youth saying that plastic surgery is ok.
So as far fetched as Human Form might seem on the surface, the concept of wanting to reach a certain beauty standard is happening right now and the film touches on how it can get out of control. From destroying a person’s self esteem to encouraging elitism, the film digs into how isolating it can for a person who is unable to meet society’s beauty standards.
Actress Si Yeon Kim’s quiet performance as the vulnerable In-Hyung is heartbreaking to watch, as she laments to others, “How much exactly? To make me look like you.” She does a great job at balancing the frustration and exhaustion that her character goes through, making us understand why she thinks surgery is the only solution for her to be normal.
I do wish we got to see a more two sided exploration on the issue of plastic surgery. Here, it is treated as a garish means of earning acceptance in society, without really touching on how plastic surgery can be used to increase self esteem or for reconstructive cases like in burn victims. All things considered, it’s a minor complaint but adding these layers would help humanise the situation more and add depth to the film.
As it stands, Human Form feels more like a statement rather than a nuanced exploration of cosmetic surgery. Still, this is a unique psychological horror film that touches on heavy themes like self esteem and peer pressure. I admired the sheer audacity of the concept, and the sharp writing and disturbing visuals helped bring this horrific tale to life.