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Film / Eyes Without a Face

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Daddy Issues, graphically portrayed.

"My face frightens me, and my mask frightens me even more."

Eyes Without a Face is a 1960 French thriller/horror/melodrama film directed by Georges Franju.

It's about a Mad Doctor named Génessier (Pierre Brasseur) who has his nurse Louise (Alida Valli) kidnap young women to cut their facial skin and transplant it onto the face of his daughter, Christiane (Edith Scob). Christiane's face is an open wound ever since a car accident caused by Daddy Dearest...

This film provides examples of:

  • Affably Evil: Both Dr. Génessier and his assistant Louise fit the bill. Both are genuinely concerned about Christiane's well-being, and both appear to be fairly normal and pleasant people in their day-to-day interractions.
  • The Atoner: Dr. Génessier takes it upon himself to restore his daughter's face, as it is implied that he blames himself for the traffic accident that cost her everything. Its telling of the film's cruel irony, that his way of redeeming himself is by becoming actually irredeemable, through delving into sickening acts against other women.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Subverted.
  • Big Bad: Dr. Génessier drives the plot with his murders.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Christiane is free from her father and Louise, but she's still disfigured and will be until she dies (the movie takes place way before transplants were possible). Not to mention the fact that, as stated in Faking the Dead below, she's been declared legally dead, so she's most likely an Un-person at that point.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Christiane kills Louise by stabbing her in the throat, specifically in the scar from her own facial graft; you'd expect such a wound to bleed profusely, but it doesn't bleed at all.note 
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The German shepherds.
  • Cry into Chest: Christiane does this at one point with Louise, being so fed up with her father's failed experimentation on her face and so distraught over her features and her faked death, that she actually begs Louise to kill her and faints.
  • Disturbed Doves: Used for the haunting ending, which would later inspire a guy by the name of Mr. Woo...
  • The Dog Bites Back: Literally. At the end of the film, Christiane opens the cages containing her father's dogs, and when he hears them barking and opens the door, they tear him apart.
  • Driven to Suicide: Edna. One can only imagine what she went through in her mind when she opened her eyes without skin on her face and her agony as she stumbled in the manor until the open window provided the only certain exit in the nightmare that she woke up in.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Dr. Génessier and Louise obviously care a great deal about Christiane: Louise in particular shows herself to be almost motherly towards her. It is a harsh twist that its this very love that leads them to monstrosity as it overruns any sense of social conscience towards other human beings.
  • Eyes Are Unbreakable: Oddly enough, although Christiane's facial skin is horribly disfigured, her eyes and the skin around them is completely unharmed. Although her mask covers her lips, it seems they're also fine, since her father cuts Edna's face off by leaving the area around the mouth untouched, meaning Christiane wouldn't need to replace that skin.
  • Facial Horror: Christiane's face post-accident is described as a "gaping wound". We get to see it briefly, and it indeed doesn't disappoint.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Obviously, the face transplants.
  • Faking the Dead: Génessier has a fake funeral for his daughter so he can work on giving her a new face.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Christiane at the end. Although she seems nice and is never actively evil, she was at least partly aware of what her father was doing to restore her face, but desperate to cure her disfigurement, she did not stop him or object. After becoming increasingly angry with him and seeing the crying girl that is to be the next victim, she snaps and turns against her father and his assistant, killing them both and letting the girl and the animals her father had caged go free.
  • Heel Realization: Christiane at the end of the film. After progressively becoming disenchanted with her father's doings, she finally breaks when she sees his next victim wake up strapped on the operating table and terribly afraid. Christiane then proceeds to free the sobbing girl and turns on both Louise and her father.
  • The Igor: Louise is a rare female variant that used to have a deformity in the past, which Dr. Génessier fixed. Unlike the typical Igor, however, she's also learned and cunning enough to be a skilled nurse and assistant, is physically attractive and well dressed, and is excellent at earning young women's trust and luring them to the mansion.
  • Karmic Death: After mutilating young women's faces to restore his daughter's, Dr. Génessier gets his own face gnawed on by dogs released by this very same daughter.
  • Love Makes You Evil: The doctor directly causes the death of at least one girl and the suicide of another, all in the name of finding a new face for his daughter. The same can be said for Louise, who lured those girls and helped dispose of their bodies later, all because she loves the doctor and Christiane, and feels obligated to Génessier for having restored her own disfigured face years prior.
  • Mad Doctor: Downplayed with Dr. Génessier, whose experiments removing young girls' faces to graft onto the face of his daughter to heal the disfigurements she sustained in a car accident are motivated by a desire as much to atone for being at the wheel during the accident as to advance the fields of skin grafts and plastic surgery.
  • Masking the Deformity: Christine wears a White Mask of Doom to hide the mutilated face from the car accident that her father caused.
  • Parental Substitute: Louise seems to be one for Christiane, acting as a mother figure for her. A pretty twisted example, since Louise is caring towards Christiane, but dangerous when it comes to any other young woman.
  • Police Are Useless: The police finally get a lead in the disappearances and arrange a test with a woman who was earlier caught shoplifting. When she disappears, they barely follow up on it or ever interview the person who tipped them off.
  • Sealed Room in the Middle of Nowhere: The good doctor's basement of horror.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Christiane at the end of the movie. She stabs Louise in the throat right after freeing the latest girl that was going to have her face cut off. The death of her father is also indirectly caused by her, since he's killed by the dogs he was experimenting on, which Christiane releases.
  • Serial Killer: Génessier and Louise work as a tag team to lure young women in and then surgically remove the skin off their faces in order to apply it to Christiane.
  • Shown Their Work: The scriptwriter paid attention to the complexities of the facial transplants, and the causes of their failures, and wrote them into the dialogue.
  • Tear Off Your Face: The main purpose of Dr. Génessier and Louise is to find a replacement face for Christiane, by any means necessary.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Sure, fixing your daughter's ruined face and making a revolutionary breakthrough for science and medicine by developing a way to successfully transplant skin from one person to another is all fine in principle... But kidnapping young women and cutting their faces off is the worst possible way to achieve all this.
  • White Mask of Doom: Christiane's mask, which hides her horrifyingly disfigured face.