The Face of Another ★★★★½

Film #52 that was recommended to me -- feel free to add to the list! (Recommended by Mitchell Beaupre)

Following Seconds, I watched another film from the same year that explores taking on another identity. I've read two Kōbō Abe books, whose work this is based on: Woman in the Dunes (which has a film adaptation I really need to go watch) and The Box Man. While I haven't read The Face of Another, this movie is dense and confusing, so I have to imagine it's a good Abe adaptation, haha. The Box Man especially made me feel like an illiterate fool while I read it, but I digress...

In this film, a man's entire face is disfigured in an accident, stripping him of much of his identity. As an "experiment" he has a psychiatrist design a mask so perfect that it is indistinguishable from a real face. It's the sort of movie full of philosophical monologues on different personas people hold within them and questions of individuality and identity. The mask "takes over" as he feels unbound from being who he once was. Without a stable sense of self, a person ceases to really exist... maybe. Everything about the movie is haunting: set design doesn't quite feel real, the sound drops out, even reality itself is sometimes intruded upon (I LOVE the shot of an open door with a separate video feed playing inside of it). Sometimes scenes repeat from the perspective of this new(?) man. There is a whole second plot with different characters, possibly as part of a story being told, but it's fractured throughout much of the film, intruding on moments of action. It's wild. Despite the way the dialog might feel on-the-nose, the movie gives me the impression that it's digging deeper in more directions than just what the characters say, and they're presented as so manic and deranged that I'm hesitant to take their words at face (heh) value.

It's an interesting thought experiment for sure. There's a whole part of our brains specifically for recognizing faces. They are what we use to identify others far above anything else. I have to imagine living with prosopagnosia is difficult. As much as I enjoyed Seconds, I think this is even more my style.

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