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Film / A Woman's Face (1938)

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The angry young woman, pre-surgery.
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A Woman’s Face (En kvinnas ansikte, 1938) is a Swedish melodrama starring Ingrid Bergman as the titular woman.

Anna Holm (Bergman) became disfigured as a young girl. This disfigurement has left her bitter; the world has treated her horribly and made her a social outcast. So, she begins a life of crime, mainly blackmailing rich women, caring little and doing little to make people care for her.

But when she has the chance meeting with Dr. Wegert, a plastic surgeon, she decides to go under the knife. However, her life of crime follows her when she becomes involved in a plot to kill a little boy for a greedy young man.

The Swedish film was remade in 1941, starring Joan Crawford.


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Tropes:

  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Once Anna becomes beautiful, she gains a conscience she never had before her disfigurement (or was it there all along?).
  • Bittersweet Ending: Anna doesn’t end up with Harald although they both admit their love for each other. She admits that it would be too difficult to forget what she was hired to do. But Anna does receive a second chance with the help of Dr. Wegert.
  • Blackmail: Anna’s stock and trade. She targets rich women, most who she blackmails for having affairs. She meets Dr. Wegert by trying to blackmail his wife but gets caught.
  • Butt-Monkey: Anna’s posse of bad guys love to make fun of her. A bad idea given Anna’s Hair-Trigger Temper when discussing that subject.
  • Chiaroscuro: The film is chock full of deep shadows and plays between lightness and dark.
  • Chick Flick: A disfigured woman becomes beautiful and must choose between evil or good.
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  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Anna’s slow transformation after her surgery reveals that she can no longer be so completely bitter.
  • Dramatic Unmask: After Anna’s surgery, she’s slowly de-bandaged for dramatic effect. The 1941 film copies the reveal almost shot-for-shot.
  • Facial Horror: Anna’s disfigurement, and no one lets her forget it.
  • I Just Want to Be Beautiful: Anna just wants to be accepted by society, and that acceptance comes from being beautiful.
  • Inheritance Murder: Torsten was to inherit his uncle’s fortune, but then Lars-Erik was born and took the inheritance. His plan is to kill him, make it look like an accident, and he wants Anna to do it.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Torsten’s horse goes wild and throws him to his death while he was trying to kill little Lars-Erik.
  • "Pan Up to the Sky" Ending: The film ends with the sky and birds flying...a sign of hope?
  • Two-Faced: One side of Anna is Ingrid Bergman (i.e. beautiful), and the other side is disfigured and scared. Not quite as complete as other two-faced individuals (as the disfigurement is mostly her cheek and some of her eye).
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Anna has a change of conscience and decides follow the plan to kill Lars-Erik. The same can’t be said for Torsten.


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