There are two elements that make a film a classic: its longevity, and its influence. A product that holds up over time for future generations, and has a profound influence on filmmakers. Some examples would include Citizen Kane, Night Of The Living Dead, The Seventh Seal, and the 1960 French production, Eyes Without A Face. Not only one the best French horror films of all time, but one of the most influential. I’d even go far as to rank it alongside the works of Jean Renoir and Jean Cocteau. The film also has a strong impressionism influence, much like in the works of German filmmakers, such as Fritz Lang.
The film follows a scientist named Génessier. He’s obsessed with the reconstruction of his daughter’s face, which has been horribly disfigured following a automobile accident. Going to such extreme lengths as kidnapping and performing heterograft surgery. This sets up a theme a typical theatre goer might have recognized in films such as Frankenstein. In a sense, this might be considered one the first “body/extremity” horror films. It also deals with complex issue of the darker side of psychological obsession. The desire to achieve a personal goal, no matter what the cost to others. The reconstruction attempts also seems to be a project to feed his own vanity, and not his daughters well being.
Unlike a lot of films of this nature that are released today, the gore is very,very minimal. It even seems virtually nonexistent at times. The daughter, who throughout most of the film wears a white mask devoid of emotion, seems uninterested in being a guinea pig to her fathers whims. Which really adds to the films atmosphere, you rarely can tell what she’s thinking or feeling. It’s left to the audience to make that connection for themselves, which at times can be a lot more powerful. What the audience is shown, is her tenderness, and as the film progresses, her gradual descent into madness from complete isolation, and the guilt her fathers crimes have caused.
Although I refuse to give the ending away once again, I will say it’s one that is not only moving, but full of poetic justice. It also proves that the animals that walk on all fours, most often times are greater than the ones who walk on two. Perhaps Animal Farm WAS right, after all.
This film was so influential, that the 2011 Spanish film The Skin I Live In borrowed so heavily from eyes, that it’s sometimes a fun game to watch both films back to back.