Sunday Subtitles is a new Cinematical feature that will review a foreign film each week. The totally subjective restrictions on film selection are only that the movies must be a)good, and b)easily available on DVD in the US. Because it’s Halloween, the feature kicks off with a special (non-Sunday) horror edition: George Franju’s 1959 classic, Eyes Without a Face.
Eyes Without a Face (France, 1959) has almost nothing in common with conventional horror films. It was made on a tiny budget, has (almost) no blood or special effects, and is austere to the point of nakedness. And yet it’s among the most chilling entries in the genre. In place of the afore-mentioned sources of fear and tension, director Georges Franju turns instead to atmosphere, setting, and a single, remarkable performance. The resulting film - the story of a girl whose face has been destroyed in a car accident and her doctor-father’s efforts to help her - is stark, chilling, and unforgettable right down to its final haunting image.
When the movie opens, the most recent attempt by Dr. Genessier (Pierre Brasseur) to perform a face transplant on his daughter Christiane has failed, and Christiane (Edith Scob, in a performance of incredible power) is forced to resume wearing the blank white mask he has made for her. Worse, the potential face donor has died, leaving a body the police describe as having “an open wound where the face should be.” In order to divert any suspicion from himself, Genessier erroneously identifies the body as Christiane’s, and her “death” is accepted as a suicide - her extreme facial disfigurement is presumed to be something with which she could not live.