In Plastic Girls, a short film from German director Nils Clauss, robotic mannequins have sentient thoughts like, My smiles bring comfort, Money comes easy for me, and You have to work hard and follow rules. The seven-minute short is Clauss’ attempt to comment on the intersection of commerce and objectification in robotic mannequins in South Korea.
The film gives the mannequins a narrative as employees of small businesses, but as ones who must always be smiling and submissive. Clauss’ collaborator Udo Lee told Creators that they saw the mannequins as “products of a society in which gender related issues are not addressed sufficiently.”
As Creators points out, the documentary was inspired by a photo series Clauss shot in 2015 called Plastic Welcomer, but the mannequins in the photo series are not the mannequins in the film. The company that makes them has gone out of business, and Clauss apparently had trouble convincing store owners to let him film their storefronts. Instead, Clauss borrowed a mannequin from a gas station and re-created moments that he remembers.
Plastic Girls is dark and surreal, overlaying detached phrases like “Cola bottle body” and “honey skin” over eerie shots of the mannequins. It’s set in a world that’s both futuristic and regressive.