As a lover of horror films, it is important to see beauty in dark places. There is something elegant and graceful about watching something that you don’t normally see. A killer at work or teens banding together to face their attacker; there is beauty in that. With a great horror film, there is a poetic nature that beautifully weaves a great story and the primal fear that goes along with it. Eyes Without a Face is one of the greatest representations of incorporating this beauty.
The story focuses on a father’s desperate desire to reconstruct his daughter’s deformed face. Guilt-ridden due to his involvement in injuring his daughter to begin with (car accident), the father (Dr. Génessier) kidnaps women in order to graft one face onto another. With the aid of his secretary, Louise, the doctor is able to continuously kidnap young women and even fake his own daughter's death in an attempt to avoid detection. While the viewer follows the steps of the doctor, it is the daughter herself, Christiane, that drives the story. Hauntingly beautiful, the viewer witnesses the loneliness and isolation of the depressed daughter much like you view a princess in a high tower. This film is incredibly poetic to the point of being moralistic and representative of childhood fables.
There is something incredibly stoic and cold about Eyes Without a Face. It feels like you are watching something you shouldn’t be seeing. Every character seems dreamlike, which only further pushes the trance-like nature of the film itself. The music runs counterintuitive to everything around you. Peppy and upbeat in nature, it feels as inappropriate as singing Happy Birthday at a funeral. While you can understand a father doing anything for his daughter, it is the coldness and precision of the doctor that makes everything seem so empty. Dr. Génessier and his assistant are obviously psychotic, but it is Christiane herself that makes the viewer feel so uncomfortable. Childlike and fragile, even looking at Christiane feels like you are taking a risk. It is the innocence of this character that makes the film creepy and unnerving.
Eyes Without a Face is ultimately a tale of finding beauty in tragedy. The ending depicts a character liberating herself by letting go of what she has become. It is a quiet, yet satisfying ending that feels like the first dash of humanity in an otherwise cold and austere world. The music, the acting, and the story are so artistic and fluent it almost feels like a theatrical play. It feels so authentic, yet completely unreal.
Movies are meant to transport you and Eyes Without a Face does this on every level. At every turn I felt like I was watching something that shouldn’t be seen. The ominous and cold nature of the film juxtaposes subtlety with profoundness. The quiet nature of everything slowly adds up, resulting in a wildly unnerving and poetic commentary on grief, love, vanity, and fear. The tension, atmosphere, and intelligence this film brings to the table is exactly what every horror film should have. Simply put, Eyes Without a Face is perfection.
If you liked Eyes Without a Face, you might also like Repulsion.