Eyes Without a Face
eyes without a face | georges franju | pierre boileau | thomas narcejac | jean redon | claude sautet | based on | novel | pierre brasseur | alida valli | juliette mayniel | mad scientist | drama | france | italy | edith scob | alexandre rignault | medical
Film: Eyes Without a Face (Les yeux sans visage)
Director: Georges Franju
Writer: Pierre Boileau, Thomas Narcejac, Jean Redon and Claude Sautet
Starring: Pierre Brasseur, Alida Valli and Juliette Mayniel
This was a movie that I just feel like I knew about and I’m not sure when, where or how that happened. It was one that was on my list as something I needed to see, but hadn’t gotten around to yet. I did luck out when this was showing at the Gateway Film Center as part of Fright Club Podcast’s Movie Club. It is really an intriguing film, especially for the year that it came out. The synopsis is a surgeon causes an accident which leaves his daughter disfigured and goes to extremes to give her a new face.
We start this with Louise (Alida Valli) as she’s driving a car. It is raining and in the backseat is a woman that is in a trench coat as well as a hat. We end up learning that the passenger is dead and being dumped into the river. When the body is found, Dr. Génessier (Pierre Brasserur) along with another man is called in to check to see if it is their missing daughter. This is strange though, the face is missing and it seems to have been done cleanly, so it is unlikely that the water did it. Dr. Génessier confirms it is his daughter.
He returns to his villa where we see that he lives with Louise. We also learn that he lied to the police as his daughter is still alive, Christiane Génessier (Edith Scob). She was in a horrible car accident that Dr. Génessier was driving. He’s a renowned scientist and is trying to give her a new face. She’s currently wearing an eerie white mask to hide her scars.
Together Dr. Génessier is having Louise kidnap young woman that look similar to how his daughter did and removing their faces to graft them onto his daughter’s. This becomes difficult though when Inspector Parot (Alexandre Rignault) and Claude Brasseur get a description of a woman that was seen with one of the missing women and come up with a plan to lure this person out as well as to find out the truth.
Now I decided to go a little bit lighter on the recap, because to be honest it doesn’t have the deepest and most complex story when it comes to subplot. I don’t think that really hurts this movie though to be honest as I feel this is much more of a character study. I’m also glad that I finally got around to seeing this as well.
What is interesting here is that Dr. Génessier is a leader in science for his field. I forgot to mention above that early in the movie, we’re introduced to him giving a lecture. He believes he’s come up with a treatment that will allow doctors to fix skin without grafts and I’m assuming this is partially to not leave scarring. I wonder if he was doing this research before what happened to his daughter or he took this on because of what happened. This is similar almost to Dr. Frankenstein as some adaptations have him trying to conquer death due to his mother passing away. Since he feels guilty to what happened to her as he was driving the car that caused the accident.
Part of this mystery in the movie comes from the fact that Christiane is being kept in a hospital, but then escapes. Now this is clearly so he to bring her home, but she becomes a prisoner. It is interesting that there’s a kennel of dogs that she is able to befriend on the premises. She is very similar to them as she’s being kept in a prison of a sorts and hiding from the world due to what happened to her face. She does gain a bit of confidence in the movie, but it is short lived. I will say she does a great job as while wearing the creepy mask that she has here, she can’t really talk. She does so well with body language and just with her eyes.
The last character I really wanted to delve into is that of Louise. Her face looked familiar and it wasn’t until about halfway through that it clicked. Over 15 years later she would be in one of my favorite movies of all time, Suspiria. She is interesting and we semi-learn part of her back-story from the funeral. The police are there and it is pointed out that she’s the assistant to Dr. Génessier. We learn there’s a bit more to this as things go on.
I do want to say that for the pacing, I’m glad that they didn’t delve too much into the science as I think that would have bogged this down. I will admit though, I did find it to be a bit slow. We get some interesting and complex characters from these three with a solid cast surrounding them. I just didn’t love this as much as I hoping to. I think the ending is quite powerful though for what they were going for.
That will take me to the effects of this movie. It is shot in black and white, so that really helps some things. We get a pretty horrific scene for the time scene of a woman’s face being removed. That looked really good to be honest. Another scene that stood out is what happens in the end. It didn’t look great, but I’ll take the practical look any day. We also get a glimpse of Christiane’s scars and they looked solid. I’ve already covered her look in the mask which was great. The cinematography was well done overall.
The last thing to cover would be the soundtrack. I didn’t realize it until the trailer was shown before the movie and one of the hosts of the showing pointed out this song is in I believe Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. I’ll never be able to watch that movie the same, but the song that is used quite a bit has an odd fit for what we’re seeing on screen. It really works and it is a tune I think I’ll seek out for when I’m writing to be honest.
Now with that said, this is really a classic film that I’m glad I could tick of my list. It really doesn’t have the most complex story, but we get an interesting angle with the mad scientist concept. I think that the three stars do well in creating flawed, yet strong characters for me. The effects we get were really good as was the soundtrack. If I did have any issues it would be I think it is a bit slow, but not to the point where I hated it. I would rate this movie as a good movie and one that I really do want to revisit as well. I will warn you, this film is in French and I had to watch it with subtitles on. I’m not sure if there’s a dubbed version out there, but if that’s an issue keep that in mind before coming in to see this one.
My Rating: 8 out of 10