Adelin Gasana’s documentary takes an in-depth look at this popular fashion accessory, examining its symbolism, its evolution, historical significance and also its health implications. Here is our review of High On Heels.
High heels represent many things to many people, beauty, sexuality, sophistication empowerment, maturity and style.
There is a lot to like about Gasana’s new documentary High On Heels, the subject matter is fascinating, while also being a part of the fashion industry that has not been delved into that regularly. I am pleased to report that I learned a number of things I didn’t know previously and that is always a bonus for any documentary. Most of my education came from the historical lecture at the beginning of the movie given by historian, and curator Lisa Small. This is one of the film’s longer sequences and also the most informative as Gasana films it from the back, and it takes the form of a Ted Talk in which Small guides us through the history of the high heel – from their inception at the end of the 16th century in Persia, to their place in the present day.
A couple of takeaways I got from this section were that heels were initially used by cavalrymen to help keep their feet in stirrups to stabilize themselves while riding horses and that high heeled boots and shoes were used as fashion accessories for men who came from a background of rich privilege and the monarchy. The sexual connotations of the high heel are also touched upon, their use in Victorian and early 20th-century pornography being an eye-opener. Gassana keeps things ticking along nicely by editing this speech around different images of the era as well as some very diverse pictures of numerous heels in all shapes and sizes. Much like works of art, high heels can be created and moulded into many different styles. These pictures also give you more appreciation of the actual artistry and work that goes into the creation of these world-famous shoes.
Another part of the documentary I found interesting was Gasana’s interviews with medical professionals including doctors, chiropractors, and pediatricians. At their most basic level, it seems that high heels are simply not healthy and the constant wearing of them can lead to complications in later life, such as arthritis, spinal issues, and sciatica, never mind the possibility of present-day problems such as broken bones, bunions, and blisters on the feet themselves.
Most of Gasana’s framing throughout the documentary is in the talking heads format where we listen to the experts on the show. A big negative of the film for me though is partly the simplicity of it. The interviewees we hear from are never asked any actual questions, they are just filmed talking to the camera about their particular specialty. This isn’t too bad as they are interesting people to listen to but I would have liked to have seen, and heard more from director Gasana. Maybe asking questions that focused on certain niche’s and other aspects of heels as we never get any deeply involving discussions about the subject. Questioning the ladies who wax lyrical about the use of heels would also have given us some more insight into why they are so enamored by these accessories. Do they really like high heels or have they just been conditioned to think that way by others?
Although Gasana’s High On Heels is a fairly run of the mill documentary, it does manage to educate its audience and, even though it was made on a low budget, it is able to thoroughly entertain. There are certainly a few meat-on-the-bones to help get us through the 45-minute runtime but, after everything is over, it feels more like a starter as opposed to the main course and at the end of the day we are left feeling hungry for more.