Quick-Thoughts: The Face of Another (1966)

A social experiment gone terribly wrong. After a man’s face becomes marred from an explosion, he looks to a doctor specified in body molding to make him a mask. What comes subsequently, however, is a progressive modification of this individual’s persona and a sequence of audacious events that interrogate the construct of human independence. It’s an identity crisis if I’d ever seen one. 

From the anatomical-inspired set-designs, to the seemingly endless backgrounding, to the eerie yet credible costume/makeup designs, to the batty camera zooms, to the object + freeze-framing, to the subtle score, to the foul audio sampling… Hell! What isn’t aesthetically masterful when it comes to Hiroshi Teshigahara’s The Face of Another?

There is a mouthful of conversations that can arise from this overlooked motion picture, but two principal ones specifically come to mind: does appearance coordinate with personality in a social environment or can someone’s soul permanently latch with another’s instinct? On paper, it seems like a simple understanding, but in The Face of Another, it’s a rotten amplification of reality. The film may beg more questions than it does answers, but philosophy, in many ways, has always stood as a form of provocative commentary. 

The side plot involving the girl with the burn-scar deserved more sequential screen-time and details, though. Or, at least, a more dilated resolution to the central narrative that it, for the most part, succeeded in paralleling. Just saying. 

Verdict: A-

“The Face of Another” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

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