Photographer and filmmaker Nadia Lee Cohen has published an unnerving film and series of images titled A Guide to Indulgence, exploring ideas of beauty and perfection. It stars a creepy group of rubber-faced ladies in opulent surroundings, seductively doing housework and attending dinner parties, all the while staring ominously into the camera. Dark-humoured and sadistically surreal, the film paints an extreme picture of glamour.
“The constant pressure faced in striving for perfection is so familiar in the world we inhabit,” Nadia says. “In response to homogenous ideals of beauty I wanted to create a satirical world in which the female inhabitants have pushed their appearances into cartoonish, melodramatic and extreme representations of femininity; yet are still looking to improve themselves even further.”
Lavish set design by Victoria H Tam gives the film its cinematic and bizarre quality. It is richly dressed and colour-coordinated to intricate detail, from the pink boudoir with its velvet headboard and frilly pillow cases, to the green dining room full of grotesque food and satin-draped models. Soki Mak was stylist on the shoot, with hair and wigs by Sami Knight and make-up by Beau Nelson. The film was co-produced by Alex Roth.
The series and film, soundtracked by La Femme, dances the line between menacing and comical, aiming to depict perfection as ridiculous. “[It] hopefully subtly exposes the cracks beneath the surface,” Nadia says. The music, the “darting eyes” beneath the masks and the subtle word play “puncture an environment that unless scrutinised appears entirely perfect”.
Watch the film on Nowness here.
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