After an accident that leaves a brilliant surgeon’s daughter horribly disfigured, he becomes obsessed with finding her a new face to restore her beauty. However, after a series of experiments start turning into murder, suspicions start to rise with the public and his daughter becomes more and more discouraged. Now he must deal with either the wrath of the law, or even worse, his emotionally tainted daughter.
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A woman, later known as Louise (Alida Valli), is shown driving her car in the “paysage” of French suburbia in the middle of the night looking paranoid and tense. As her eyes continue to shift nervously about, her eyes meet with a reflection in her rear view mirror; a female corpse slumped over in the backseat in a man’s hat and trench coat. Since the film is in black and white, it is highly doubtful that the dark liquid drowning the body’s face is a result of a wild fondue party. When the woman pulls her car over, she ends up dragging the body in a very fashionable black rain coat, to a nearby creek and disposing it into the water. That’s the way to do it. Dispose a dead body but look stylish doing it! You never know who could be watching.
After witnessing a body being disposed of at the creek, we are whisked to a lecture being held by Docteur Genessier (Pierre Brasseur), a brilliant, yet sinister looking surgeon who is studying the science of regenerative tissue. Ironically, after the lecture he is approached by a small group of elderly people who seem to be the most enthusiastic about his work, not that aging and saggy skin is any reason to be interested in tissue rejuvenation. The doctor, however, remains unfazed by their gushing comments upon receiving news that the morgue must see him immediately and seems to brush them off like they were, well...old people.
The mystery behind Dr. Genessier's sudden vacate to the morgue becomes clearer within the walls of the police station. Two investigators open the dialogue with a discussion about the mysterious disappearance of Dr. Genessier's daughter, Christiane (Edit Scob). After a horrible accident had left the surgeons daughter without a face, she one day mysteriously disappeared from the clinic never to be seen again...until they found the body of a girl floating in a creek with her face also missing. To them, the odds seemed pretty good, but something fishy was still nagging at them in terms of the case. Not only was Christiane missing, but also another young woman of similar appearance and age. Nevertheless, the genius doctor coldly identifies the body as his daughter and shows no remorse for the other man in the same situation.
In the first part of the film, the stylish body disposer Louise returns to daylight, but this time in the metropolitan streets of France. She is seen following a young woman around looking as creepy as possible -it's not hard to figure out that her main errand for the day was to stalk a young woman, and maybe followed by a quick run to the grocers. She pursues this woman a number of times before finally befriending her and helping her find a room to stay in France for her studies, which just so happens to be Dr. Genessier's creepy castle of medicine.
In the meantime, a funeral has been held for the "docteur's" allegedly dead daughter, where his assistant Louise ,and even the daughter's fiancee, are present. The doctor and Louise look more suspicious than mournful at the service, and for good reason. Upon the doctor's arrival back home his daughter is found face down in her bed not dead but sulking! "Why aren't you wearing your mask?", he exclaims after she finally decides to lift her head. The mask acts a replacement for the face she no longer has, but Christiane is quite unwilling to wear it. Especially after a failed face transplant her father attempted,with what is now known to be, the face of the young girl from the creek. Understandably so since the mask itself looks like a more detailed version of Michael Myers haunting white face and the B-Boy dance crew "The Jabberwocky's", but much more feminine. Not only is Christiane forced to hide her face with a creepy expressionless mask, but she is also becoming an experimental obsession for her father.
Hope seems to compose itself after the young woman Louise finds is lured into visiting the doctor's living/experimentation quarters and ends up in the cutting room as Christiane's new face. However, the only result from the second attempt is failure, disappointment, and another dead body to deal with. With the knowledge of another girl missing and evidence describing Louise's involvement with the matter, the police and the fiancee become even more suspicious. They decide to assign a young woman to act as an inpatient at the doctor's clinic as a lure for his corrupt ways. Low and behold, their plan worked and the doctor decided the "inpatient" would be his new victim...it's a shame that when she got kidnapped they had no idea where he'd taken her. Drat! Not again! However, karma was already turning its ugly head on the doctor and Louise as Christiane starts to feel more and more like her father's caged specimen's.
George Franju's "Eyes Without a Face (Les Yeux sans visage)" undoubtedly one of the most beautifully done horror films stemming from the 21st century. The film's visual elements are relatively simple. The lighting in several scenes is not too concerned with sharp contrasts or any special lighting when it comes to it's actors, and the settings do not come across as being too elaborate; with exception to Dr. Genessier's monstrous house dripping in the fruits of his surgical brilliance. By no means, however, do these simplified elements reduce the effectiveness of the film. In fact, these basic approaches act as the ideal background for film's character's to really drive the film. Rather than being absorbed in some extravagantly dressed, heavily lit atmosphere, it is up to the character's to evoke the eerie undertones of the film. The best example of this would be through the mask that Christiane is burdened with in order to conceal her contaminated face, or lack thereof. As noted earlier, the mask itself is comparable to other grotesque serial killers and smooth stepping dance crews -- white and expressionless. Even though the face we are dealt with bears no emotion, Edith Scob's acting is so convincing that expressions seem to appear before our eyes. She has this magical ability to use her gaze as the sole mean to creating expression. In other words, Scob is the Midas touch of lackluster latex faces. In addition, it is her capability to express so much with so little that makes Christiane's character the most ominous part of the film. Although her eyes speak wonders, her true expressions lie concealed the underbelly of her emotions.