Splatter Time Fun Fest 2011: Les Yeux Sans Visage (Eyes Without A Face, 1960)

Splatter Time Fun Fest 2011 takes a somber turn, but there are dogs!

Adaptation By: Pierre Boileau, Thomas Narcejac, Jean Redon, & Claude Sautet
Directed By: Georges Franju

I don’t think anyone should read Les Yeux Sans Visage as a typical horror film. Georges Franju’s picture lacks any traditional horror beats, in fact the few moments that could be perceived as horror beats are conventional character reveals. What music there is in Les Yeux Sans Visage is very minimalist, letting the actions of the characters speak volumes. I can see how someone going into Les Yeux Sans Visage looking for a traditional horror movie would be underwhelmed, in fact I know one such person. I looked at Les Yeux Sans Visage in a different light, it’s not a horror movie but rather an observation of horror.

The main characters in Les Yeux Sans Visage are all horrific and the acts they perpetrate on their unsuspecting victims are most definitely horrific. What makes Docteur Génessier, Louise, and Christiane worthy of their horrific status is that they honestly believe their acts are for a greater good. In the eyes of the Docteur and Louise you can see how honorable they believe they are in their actions. Louise certainly has moments where she almost cracks, where she doubts her purpose, but she quickly finds her steel and the fire of honorable purpose returns to her eyes. Christiane is different, her eyes are her entire character and her eyes paint the portrait of a sullen woman. In her case I got the sense that she did not want to believe the acts she was going along with were honorable but the strong will of her brother along with her desire for a new face made her believe. In the end her doubts get the best of her and she acts against the desires of the good, but even then she perpetrates horrific acts in the cause of what she believes is the greater good.

The comparison that instantly sprang to mind while watching Les Yeux Sans Visage was that of The Devil’s Rejects. Rob Zombie’s 2005 horror fable about a psychotic family committing atrocities was about observing horror as it happens. Les Yeux Sans Visage is more natural in its observations and it avoids the gore found in Mr. Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects, although I would contend that the scene where Edna’s face is removed is worse than anything in The Devil’s Rejects. Les Yeux Sans Visage is very psychological in its horror, opting for the horror of observing horrific acts in lieu of jump scares and monsters. There is something naturally horrific about witnessing the ugliness that can so easily be found within humanity.

I’d like to give special recognition to Edith Scob for her portrayal of Christiane. She spends much of the movie behind a mask, but that is what lends creepiness to her performance. By wearing a mask Mademoiselle Scob is forced to emote through her eyes and her eyes alone. Her character has an ethereal quality because of the mask, a sense of eeriness that ever goes away. The mask leaves for a short time, but even in Christiane’s new face her eyes emote a deep sadness and a deep creepiness. She feels odd wearing someone else’s face ad she shows it through her eyes. Mademoiselle Scob’s performance helps the feeling of observation that Les Yeux Sans Visage exudes, I couldn’t help but study the way her eyes spoke about the moments happening around her.

As I said at the beginning, I can understand why someone who went into Les Yeux Sans Visage hoping for traditional jump scares and the like was let down. I am not one of those people, I went into Les Yeux Sans Visage hoping for a good movie and my expectations were exceeded. What I was given by Monsieur Franju was an excellent observation of the horror within humanity. My expectations were exceeded, my interest was maintained, Les Yeux Sans Visage was a very rewarding experience.

Rating:

****

Cheers,
Bill

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9 responses to “Splatter Time Fun Fest 2011: Les Yeux Sans Visage (Eyes Without A Face, 1960)

  1. Mark Middlemas

    Nice! It’s now on the list.

  2. Glad you liked it. It is one of those films that is a bit out of the bounds of what is traditionally considered horror. I do like Edith Scob’s performance a lot. She’s effective at conveying so much while being restricted from what I would argue is many actor’s greatest asset.

    Yes, it doesn’t have jump scares, but I still find the idea and some of the scenes terrifying and supremely unsettling in a way that stuck with me far longer than any jump scare ever has.

  3. Mark – Glad to be of service 🙂

    James – This did seem like it would possibly be your type of movie. You are right, it is out of bounds as far as horror expectations go. It is very unnerving and unsettling though because of the observational nature it takes in regards to horror. That was my take at least. Glad you liked it as much as I did. 🙂

  4. This is definitely a film I love and certainly is very entrancing as Almodovar is set to release a film that is sort of similar to this one. I plan to re-post my old review of the film onto my blog later this month as part of the spirit of Halloween. Great work as usual.

  5. Thanks Steve. 🙂 I’ve heard of the Almodavar film, I think it’s been getting very good word of mouth. Volver is still the only Almodavar film I’ve seen though, no idea when I’ll get to any of his other works.

  6. Oh man that picture is frightening, something mask-like about her visage! I love your attention to lesser-known films here, keep it up!

    http://colincarman.wordpress.com/2011/09/17/film-review-drive-2011/

  7. Thanks for the feedback 🙂

  8. Pingback: Splatter Time Fun Fest 2011: The 2nd Annual Bloody Machete Awards | Bill's Movie Emporium

  9. Pingback: Postulating & Pontificating: Horror Bonanza! | Bill's Movie Emporium

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