The collaboration between filmmaker Hiroshi Teshigahara and novelist Kōbō Abe attained its greatest moment under the sun with Woman in the Dunes. But the dark and modernist exploration of identity, ethics and existential angst, The Face of Another, was nearly as compelling a work. Okuyama (Tatsuya Nakadai), a wealthy executive, has had his face horribly damaged in a chemical accident, thus forcing him to keep it under wraps at all times. This hasn’t just turned him into a social outsider, he even finds his wife (Machiko Kyō) avoiding his proximity. The bleak existence of this increasingly bitter and alienated man, however, gets a new shot of life when his psychiatrist (Mikijiro Hira) offers a scientifically breakthrough but ethically questionable solution – a life-like mask modeled on the face of a stranger. This opportunity to rejoin the society with a face of no one offers him the kind of freedom rarely available to anyone, and he decides to use it seduce his wife. Unfortunately for him, this presents a double-edged sword for him; if he manages to get his wife to bed, it would expose her willingness to commit adultery. The film, therefore, raised a number of difficult but philosophical pertinent questions. And, lest one forgets, it touched on the theme of Frankenstein’s monster as well. The terrific B/W photography, with its dashes of expressionism and heavy usage of New Wave techniques (freeze frames, jump cuts, sudden close-ups and zoom-outs et al), and the jazzy but minimal score, brilliantly accentuated the brooding mood, and the protagonist’s compulsive yet surrealistic journey from intense alienation to succumbing to his baser temptations.
Director: Hiroshi Teshigahara
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Existential Drama/Avant-Garde