“Smile. Smile…… Not too much”Review by Lewis Goodall
I was drawn to this film as many filmmakers nowadays, including Edgar Wright, sight it as their inspiration or at least a part of it to bring them into film making. So naturally I was all about that to see the origins of what many consider a masterpiece. Saying that, this is the exact same situation happen with ‘Eraserhead’ and oh boy. If you haven’t seen what i thought about that film then check here. So I wanted to go into this with a non-biased mind and you what, i was not disappointed. I can see why people will consider this a masterpiece but there’s certainly some hiccups with saying that word, like how a drunk person would say it.
Eyes Without a Face is a 1960 French film, directed by Georges Franju. Following a car crash involving a world-class surgeon, Docteur Génessier ( Pierre Brasseur) and his daughter, Christiane (Edith Scob), her face is left horrifically disfigured. Her father living with the guilt of causing this trauma, works tirelessly to find a replacement face for his daughter. Pulling out all the stops to achieve this, he uses the aid of his secretary, Louise ( Alida Valli), to kidnap young, blue eyed teens that share the same resemblance. As the weight of the situation bares on everyone involved, worlds start to crumble as everyone tries to grip hold of what they once had.
Horror films such as this is what a horror film should be, compared to all the half-arsed jump-scare riddled horror films we have nowadays (looking at you Blumhouse Studios (apart from ‘Get Out’, that film gets a pass)). The horror within this film relies on concentrated, unsettling visuals. Taking something so minimal to play on the viewers mind and have the viewer create their own fear. It’s a strange sensation as there isn’t anything partially scary about what was happening. Everything is created through the visuals and movement. Point case and example is the daughter, Christiane. She is the subject of the film as the father attempts to locate her a new face, to compensate in the meantime, whilst he tries to find an eligible teen to rip their face off, she wears a rubber mask to cover whats below. This ice mask is down right unsettling, none of the features moves, it looks human, there’s just something off about it. This matched with the way she walks around and her general body type, looking like an anorexic, she resembles the corpse bridge just like bangable. There is a moment when you do see beneath the mask but it is blurred as though you are looking through hazed eyes, this again contributes the the creepiness as you never get a clear shot and have to make you’re own assumptions
The horror certainly derives from the daughter so when she isn’t on the screen it’s a fairly visually pleasing film. Apart from one screen including a transplant, but i’ll get into that in a moment. Of course the fact that it was made 1960 it pretty much had to be in black and white but it really works in its favour as it seriously adds to the creepiness. I mean look at the above photo, if technicolor got their hands on that it wouldn’t be as unsettling.
So heading back to the story aspect as we have confirmed that visually i’m giving it a gold star. The father is an interesting take on the ‘Villian’ character as he doesn’t feel like he is the villain but he most certainly is. This feeling comes from the fact that he has a relatable motive. Having pure love for his daughter he obviously wants to use his skills as a surgeon to help her as it was his fault for the disfigurement, therefore his decisions, though being questionable, have purpose. in a sense you want him to achieve but at what cost. Also at the same time he experiments on dogs so that a clear indication that he’s a villain. The secretary is brought into the whole ordeal to help locate the next candidates for the operation. There is this carnival style music that plays whenever the secretary prays and it gets in bedded in the viewers mind to play association games that whenever that music plays, you know something bad is going to happen, to the point where before you’ve seen the secretary, the music plays and you know somethings gonna go down and i feel that is a technique that is fairly wasted nowadays.
So we have a gold star for visuals, Gold star for techniques used, my silver star goes to characters purely for the end of the film. Up until the end it was pretty spot on with everything but some questionable decision from some characters just don’t seem to match their original motive and go against previous logic that I can see. one decision lead to a moment that had me move from shocked to laughing within 2 seconds and not in an intentional way. It’s a shame that these choices leave a sour taste in my mouth after finishing the film. Overall i do believe that this is a horror film that any horror fan should see as I truly believe that this is how a horror film should be done. Unsettling visuals and fleshed out characters create an unerving experience that shouldn’t be missed.
Oh yeah there was a grisly surgery scene including the face being ripped off of someone surgically and it did make me cringe so yeah, forgot to come back to that but it was pretty good.