Posts Tagged ‘Eyes Without a Face’

Eyes Without a Face (Les Yeux Sans Visage) (1960)

October 11, 2017

90 minutes – French (Subtitled in English) – Unrated but I would give it an PG-13 for dread, some very bloody scenes, and creepy atmosphere.

Guilt is a terrible thing. I cannot imagine a single person reading this who has not felt guilty for something in their life. Guilt has an extreme power over normal human beings. Guilt can slowly unhinge us, causing a very negative change and maybe even becoming the monster we think we are. Guilt can also push us into the light, forcing us to atone for our guilt by doing good deeds. The thought of people discovering our secret guilt is scary. That sort of thing is a weak point, a big glaring example of why we feel we may not be worthy of kindness or happiness. If people found out, they would do something to condemn us, giving us the punishment we always imagine. However, people are human and atonement, acceptance, and change are very real concepts. We do not need to hide in the shadows, at least not from ourselves. The future is not yet written and you can be a better person and outweigh the sins of the past.

There is a tradition of masks in horror movies which is how I found out about this movie in the first place. Most of us clearly remember the iconic masks of Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees but there are so many more. Ghostface from Scream, Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the deadly masks from Halloween 3 and another deadly mask in The Abominable Dr. Phibes also come to mind. There is even a prominent mask in one of the movies that I will be reviewing for the 31st this year. Masks weird us out because not seeing somebody’s face makes us uncomfortable. I talked earlier this month about the same effect that a clown’s face paint has. We cannot judge the true expressions of the person and therefore it is harder to judge their intentions. Also, it makes them look less human and anything less than human is something to be wary of. Finally, we cannot see what is under the mask and so we are left to imagine what must be under there. In that uncertainty, there could be anything beneath the mask especially the mask of somebody or something you know is a killer. I will be exploring this idea again next week.

The first thing I noticed about this movie was the great sound design in it. A good sound design can definitely enhance a good horror movie and make a great horror movie. This is especially true of older horror films where they had a low budget and could not rely on jump scares or expensive visual effects. This film does a great job using silence, something that newer horror projects do not use as much. There are long stretches of silence or periods where we just hear sound effects and no dialogue or music. The music, when it comes, is truly maddening as most of it makes use of the same musical motif which sounds chaotic and ratchets up the tension. It makes moments of true horror all the more shocking as they made me jump. The film is in black and white which is a sign of the times but it helps with the mood of the film, all light and shadows. The sets are simple but well-dressed like a Hitchcock film.

Tension is the main game here as this is a slow burn horror film. We find out what is going on early on in the film but the driving action waits until we are prepared for it. The tension must be high so that the existential horror really hits us. Edith Scob plays the titular woman who has had an accident which has removed her face, leaving only her eyes. She is absolutely spellbinding. The mask they constructed for her is so good and so creepy and she is a brilliant actress. She does so much with those eyes that I often forget that she is wearing an expressionless mask. I felt tense in every scene she was in as she was an unknown quantity, a desperate woman yearning to return to humanity and the true driving force of the movie. Her father is played by Pierre Brasseur and his gruff, detached manner is horrible to watch as he thinks about and does horrible things. Since the movie is actually mostly dialogless, many of the actors do so much with the movements of their bodies and sometimes just the way they breathe. I really loved that.

Overall, I really loved this movie and it is definitely the best movie I have reviewed so far this month. The movie starts with deep existential horror as it tackles things like lost, ennui and isolation. Then it moves on to actual, tangible horror including blood and violence but also guilt and insanity as well. I was really left shaken by this one as the director really nailed his goal of “anguish” very well.


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