The Face of Another [Tanin no kao](1966)

“Recognize these?

“You know what they are?  You don’t, do you?  You have no idea.

“They’re replicas of body parts. You see?

“Sadly this is not only a finger.

“It is an inferiority complex in the shape of a finger.

“It’s not that I specialize in treating fingers.  I’m a psychiatrist in fact.

“Inferiority complexes dig holes in the psyche and I fill them.”

This one is frequently hailed as a science fiction film – or at least, SF tinged.  The Criterion Collection, in fact, just featured it in a week of SF films on their Hulu collection.

But that is still an overly generous assessment.

What it reminds me of, more than anything else, is Georges Franju’s Eyes Without a Face.  Both films have a very similar (and poetic) visual aesthetic – and an often grotesque and disturbing ’60s cool.  And both have a decidedly odd approach to material borrowed from far more sensational horror films.

Here, a doctor gives a man a mask so realistic that most people think it is his actual face.  He was badly injured at work and hides his ruined face behind the bandages he never removes.  The mask itself is made of a new synthetic which looks like real skin, if it is laid out according to the collagen patterns of the muscles – the Langer lines – in our faces.

It is a decidedly creepy exploration of the effect the mask has on the man wearing it – and on the people around him.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect is the doctor, who surrounds himself with a surreal swirl of artificial body parts, doctor’s tools and biological charts.  He believes his plan is enormous risky – and yet he refuses to let that stop him from learning as much as he can from his human guinea pig.

However, any film as surreal (and cerebral) as this one probably won’t satisfy the average horror audience.

Which is probably a shame

Although I’m not sure.





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