‘Les Yeux sans visage‘ is a 1960 horror film known widely as ‘Eyes Without A Face.’ When it premiered, director Georges Franju faced controversy for its unsettling themes and disturbing imagery. In America, it would premier as ‘The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus,’ though heavily edited.
Doctor Génessier (Pierre Brasseur) is called to identify the body of a scarred woman thought to be his daughter. The doctor positively identifies it as her, but when he returns home, his assistant Louise (Alida Valli) is taking care of Christiane (Édith Scob), the doctor’s true daughter. Génessier has been keeping her locked up and uses Louise to lure young women for Génessier to perform face grafts. His first attempt with Edna (Juliette Mayniel) ends in failure, leaving Christiane heartbroken and guilty at the loss of innocent life. She calls her old boyfriend Jacques Vernon (François Guérin), though only states his name. He recognizes her voice and contacts police Inspector Parot (Alexandre Rignault) who unwittingly sends the doctor his next victim Paulette Mérodon (Béatrice Altariba).
To start, I had two issues with this movie. To start, the first twenty minutes are boring. It was nothing but fodder to show the doctor as a medical genius. Second, there were a few subplots that were next fully explored. The phone call to the boyfriend. The sister of one of the victims arrives to report her sibling missing and this goes nowhere. Also, there was no reconciliation with the very first victim. Her father begs the doctor for answers, but none are given.
Outside of that, the movie is genuinely unsettling and nuanced. However, I do not know why it caused such a fervor. It did having disturbing imagery such as the doctor’s experiments, but only one scene was particularly gruesome. Alas, critics even back in the day could not appreciate a flick that dared to take risks. The themes of a man who thinks he is becoming a deity where even his own flesh and blood is wrapped up in his plot.
Georges Franju, who also co-wrote the screenplay, did take a lot of risks for the time period and I truly think it paid off. Despite the faults I mentioned above, the themes of slavery vs. freedom, science vs. madness, love vs. obsession, and beauty vs. ugliness are prevalent in the plot.
The key point of the story is Christiane. Her arc is what pulled you into the story. You watch as she begins to doubt her father’s motives in trying to restore her face. You also see her as she wonders if she is in a prison instead of a home. It an excellent story-arc that pulls you into the film, despite the horror that is happening.
Bottom line, Eyes Without A Face is a nuanced horror film that does have its faults, but it pulls you in with the tragedy of its protagonist.
PARENTAL CONCERNS: Disturbing images, Violence
FAVORITE QUOTE: Angelic? I don’t know about that. When I look in a mirror, I feel I’m looking at someone who looks like me, but seems to come from the Beyond, from the Beyond.
Check out the trailer below:
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