A while ago, I checked out the screening of Eyes Without A Face (1960) at the Alliance Française French Film Festival held at Cinematheque. This year’s theme was Love and Violence. I was surprised at how many of the films were older, but it was kind of nice to have the theatre vibe anyway, with a big screen and everyone sharing feels. That being said, you can also just watch this film on YouTube (see link at end).
Eyes Without a Face is directed by Georges Franju and based on a novel by Jean Redon. It’s inspired a whole bunch of stuff, including the Spanish film The Skin I Live In.
This psychological horror film is about Christiane and her father’s quest to steal her a new face. Her father caused a car accident that wrecked her previously lovely face, so he now kidnaps other young girls to steal their faces and stitch them onto his daughters.
Christians is passive and reasonably mopey throughout all this. She misses her old beau. But, over the course of the film, she asserts herself more and craziness ensues.
The first thing that drew me in was the music. This carnivalesque ditty plays in the opening credits as someone drives to stash body, and then it’s reoccurring throughout the film. It kind of becomes the someone-is-about-to-get-kidnapped theme.
The theme song for Christiane is also fantastic. It’s soft and contemplative, kind of like the background music of an old fantasy video game. Play below.
This film isn’t really scary by today’s standards, but the vibe is still delightfully messed up. Also, the doctor cutting off a woman’s face looks less realistic than it would today, but it’s still pretty good! The fact that the camera lingers on it for so long lets the viewer go through so many phases of emotions and thoughts. I went from, “so cheesy”, to “ah, they’re actually showing it”, to “god, he’s sweating a lot”, to “it’s going to fall apart”, to “just rip it off already!”, and finally to “ew.”
Christiane’s mask is very iconic. It makes her look like a porcelain doll, which is basically how her father and his assistant treat her. The actress, Edith Scob, manages to do a lot with her head movements and walking to show emotion.
The design of the Doctor’s house is interesting. It’s huge with three levels, Christiane in the attic and the doctor’s lab and experiment dogs in the basement. There are many scenes that show all three levels. Christians wanders down from her prison tower to pet the dogs. Kidnapped girls naively run upstairs. Sometimes it even goes on a little long, from level to level, but it makes you feel it’s big emptiness.
I’m divided on the ending of the film. I won’t reveal it, but it has a great climax, and then a quick ending that made think, “what happens now?” Sometimes you want endings to do that, but most of the time I just want a nice conclusion with a discernible meaning. Overall, I think this film is more about feeling than meaning, which works for horror.
Thanks for reading! If you watch it below, let me know what you think.
Also, I’m not sure what’s up with me and horror films lately! Normally, I don’t watch them at all, but I’ve seen two in the past month. #tryingnewthings