The most accurate description of Georges Franju’s drama, which is erroneously classified by many as a horror, would be a “game of details” – static, prolonged scenes, where every single element exists for a reason, constitute a bizarre insight into the doleful reality we are confronted with. Although the director takes his time to present the events, the story itself grasps the attention, in its twisted, riveting way. Horror movie fans may find some interesting scenes as well, so prepare yourself for it – “Les Yeux Sans Visage” is a remarkable piece of cinematography.
After Christiane Genessier’s face is deformed after a car accident, her father, an acclaimed surgeon, does his utmost to right the wrongs and struggles to create a new face for her. His experiments require the use of human material and with the help of a demonic assistant, both cross the line of morality, with purpose to bring peace to the harrowed soul of Christiane. The doctor becomes the target of the local police and this puts a pressure on him – the time is ticking as his mission to soothe the pain of his daughter becomes his main duty. The director doses the pace in a rather slowcoach manner, but due to that, Franju cherishes all the details and creates the opportunity for the spectators to get really sucked into the story. Pierre Brasseur, who plays the role of the maniac doctor, delivers his line a spine-chilling stoicism and precision, which is almost deluding. The devilish assistant completes the portrayal of the fiendish experiments conducted within the boundaries of the saying, that end justifies the means – Genessier does his utmost to reconstruct not only the face of his beloved one, but her entire life as well.
“Les Yeux Sans Visage” is a game of details, which requires a lot of “cinematic” patience when viewing. The thin line of boredom may be once or twice touched, but never fully crossed, as Franju created a darksome, mysterious study of psychology in terms of sin-burdened morality. What’s more, the French classic became a source of widespread inspiration afterwards – let’s sort things out: Almodovar’s acclaimed drama “La Piel Lo Habito” (2011) is relevantly inspired by Franju’s film and it is only one of few other titles, which shall be listed in here. The most fascinating part of the movie – the surgery – is a masterpiece on its own: not only taking into consideration the realism of skinning the face off (1960!), but also the pulsing suspense throughout the entire scene. It is needless to say, that Georges Franju, being one of the most important French directors, remained quite underrated. “Les Yeux Sans Visage” is by far his utmost, proving exceptional, but bizarre delicacy in moviemaking. The actors follow the rule of minimalism, which in the past was rather unusual – especially the little gestures and countenance of Edith Scob, playing Christiane Genessier. All in all, “Les Yeux Sans Visage” constitute a horrific psychological portrayal, which nowadays gives background to many thriller and horror movies.
To gather things up, I wasn’t completely out-blown by “Les Yeux Sans Visage” – the film grasped my attention and kept me within some tension till the very last minutes. It represents this part of cinema, where the way the director tells the story is quirky, but that’s how the talents are forged. All in all, what I hate the most is being like the others – and Franju’s horror definitely does not meet that point even merely.