Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Les yeux sans visage (Eyes Without a Face) Review

Christiane is a young woman who is left with a horribly disfigured face after an automobile accident that she blames on her father Dr Génessier. Dr. Génessier has his assistant Louise (a woman who for reasons that become clear throughout the feature is seemingly willing to do anything he asks) finds young woman they deem suitable and kidnaps them. Dr. Génessier and Louise then remove the kidnapped women’s face and attempt to graft it to Christiane’s damaged face to repair the damage he fells responsible for. Unfortunately these attempts to graft a new face onto hers have been unsuccessful and thus there have been several victims.

Unlike many monster movies Dr. Génessier is shown as a caring and compassionate character that is not driven by some sociopathic tendency. Rather his driving force for his horrible actions is his love for his daughter and the guilt he fells for the accident he fells responsible for. Hence unlike many films in the horror genre (especially at the time this film was released) the horror serves to reinforce the characters motivations rather than simply as a gross out visceral ‘thrill’. For instance during the film there is a grotesque scene that is sure to leave many felling sickly whereby a woman’s face is slowly and methodically cut off so that it may be grafted onto Christianes face. Not only does this show the horrors Dr. Génessier is willing to commit to fix the damage he has caused and thus shows how much he loves his daughter and is filled with guilt, but the scenes that proceed show that he genuinely doesn’t directly wish harm on his victims. This all cumulates in a very human character that is conflicted by the inhumane things he feels compelled to commit not out of desire, but out of a need to fix the damage he has done to his daughter.

Christiane (the woman with eyes but not a face) is shown understandably as a very troubled individual who both wishes for a new face but is shown to detest the actions being undertaking to hopefully achieve this. As the film progresses Christiane becomes increasingly convinced that her father will never be able to successfully graft a new face onto her and slowly begins to wish for death. What is most remarkable about Christiane is Edith Scob’s performance, who is able to convey an array of developing emotions despite the limitations of playing a character that mostly wears a mask and has relatively few lines.

When Eyes Without a Face was originally released it was generally received with mixed to poor reviews. However given that Eyes Without a Face is still readily available to this date I can only assume that the films disturbing content was simply too much for many at the time of its release. Resulting in numerous critics being unable to see past the surface level grotesque factor for the more interesting character study that is present (one critic even almost lost their job for simply liking the film and daring to do their job in saying as much).

Make no mistake, whilst Eyes Without a Face is in terms of its disturbing visual content relatively tame to what is often released today. It is the story that surrounds this grotesque imagery that gives the film a level of impact that few films can hope to achieve and thus the film remains one that many will find confronting to view.

Hence Eyes Without a Face comes highly recommended.

Note: I highly recommend considering the criterion blu-ray which is a stunning blu-ray that’s presentation quality has likely not been seen for this film since its original release.

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