You watched it! You can't unwatch it! Sorry, shameless nod toward Futurama because I love the hell out of that show. Anyways, how is everyone doing? Enjoy your long weekend? Good, cause now it's time to get back to work! For this week's movie club, I gave you some real meat to chew with the moody, psychological, inescapably French Eyes Without a Face. As per our m.o. here at Horror Squad, it is now time to take a moment between cleaning the grill and applying copious amounts of aloe vera to the inevitable sunburns you suffered and talk about this gem. Jump past the bump as soon as you polish off the last of the potato salad and let's dig into Eyes Without a Face.
I'm actually not going to say too much about this film. I can hear the accusations of laziness being cybernetically hurled my way and while this approach is somewhat inspired by my exhausting move into a new abode this weekend, I owe it to this film especially to not monopolize the analysis. Eyes Without a Face is so unique and complex as to instill a host of vastly different opinions from our astute readership. Some of you will downright hate this film, and that is perfectly fine. But I wanted to choose a film that forced me to scratch my head and ponder it after my first viewing. Here are a few, very few as I tend to get long-winded and am trying to demonstrate some measure of reserve, of my musings on the film.
What Did You Think?
A vague, simplistic opener but one I feel is appropriate for a film like this. As I said, I selected this film for its uniqueness; I had never seen anything quite like it. But, as mentioned in the introduction, this is a French film and that distinction often carries with it a number of preconceptions. Did you find the film boring? Pretentious? Or did you find something about the story so timelessly chilling that it shed new light on this black-and-white flick? Do you think it's a horror film? Director Georges Franju said he never considered Eyes Without a Face to be a horror film but rather a drama about anguish. But I think the acts of the doctor and the unsettling atmosphere most certainly paint the film as horror.
After the swell of divisive reactions to the recent theatrical release of Human Centipede, and the upcoming release of Splice, my friend and colleague John Gholson wrote an article posing a fascinating question about a possible revival of mad scientist films. In many ways, Eyes Without a Face is precisely that. It is about a man who has twisted advancements in medical technology to horrifying ends. Dr. Genessier demonstrates a single-mindedness toward his pursuit that while admirable in most scientists, becomes despicable when he devalues the cost of human life in the scheme of fulfilling his goal. However, where the film deviates from the structure of a mad scientist film is that Dr. Genessier is not on this quest for revenge, or some warped sense of self-promotion or advancement. His sole purpose is to heal his daughter and bring some degree of normalcy back to her shattered life. So the question(s) is(are) this(these): does his motivation excuse his violent tenacity? Is the fact that he is perpetrating these acts as an expression of his love for his daughter enough to extradite him from the mad scientist label? Do you see a hint of Dr. Frankenstein in him? Personally, I hate the guy but that maybe his nonchalance when it comes to killing dogs. You all know how I feel about that.
The Price of Perfection
Christine did not escape the accident unscathed, I think that's pretty apparent. But is her deformity so unbearable as to warrant the dark deeds of her father? Is he trying to make her whole again, or is he searching for some dubious sense of perfection in all aspects of his life? This is a man who is obsessed as much with performing a successful face transplant as he is the well-being of his daughter. Perhaps not for notoriety, but certainly so that he remains unbested by any single challenge in his life. I find one of the larger commentaries at play in this film is the idea that people will sometimes do terrible things to maintain an image. In this case, the image is represented literally in Christine's face, but the undercurrent suggests a society that has become driven by the insatiable need to be perfect. Thoughts?
One of the things that makes this movie so haunting is this young girl in a white, stoic, uniform mask. It's not so much that I find her menacing, but the knowledge of what acts are being carried out on behalf of that face are mondo creepy. If nothing else, the image creates one of the coolest posters for any film I have ever seen. The makeup employed on her marred face was so intense that it apparently caused a few people to faint during various festival screenings when the film was first being distributed. Did you find her more frightening with the mask or without? Did you empathize with Christine or did you find her weak and complicit in her father's actions? Side note: though we all know Michael Meyers' mask is a mold of William Shatner's face, John Carpenter once said that he got the idea for the all white, static face from Eyes Without a Face.
As promised, I am done babbling. I want to know what you guys thought. Hit me with your best shot!