Tanin no Kao (The Face of Another)
Directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara
Written by Kobo Abe
Music by Toru Takemitsu
Tanin no Kao (The Face of Another) is the third collaboration between director Teshigahara and writer Kobo Abe (Pitfall, The Woman in the Dunes, and later in 1968, The Ruined Map) and it explores similar themes; the individual’s role in society, the loss of identity and, ultimately, the loss of one’s self (and moral values) entirely (the “divided self”). Abe’s work as a whole is heavily influenced by Kafka and various Russian authors and existentialism in general, and this film is no different in that regard.
As with all of these discussions, there will be SPOILERS ahead, so be sure to watch the film before reading any further.
The story’s protagonist is Okuyama (Tatsuya Nakadai) who is a well-to-do businessman whose face is permanently disfigured in an unspecified industrial accident at work. Throughout much of the early part of the film, he wears bandages (even beyond the period of which he can remove them) to hide his face from the world. He is, understandably, very self-conscious of his condition and sinks into a state of derision and brooding.
Okuyama has been seeing a psychiatrist (whose office is a bizarre makeshift laboratory complete with glass partitions painted with Langer’s lines – also, the furniture and equipment in the room seem to be continually rearranged throughout the film), Dr. Hira, who sees his patient’s increasing rejection of society and eventually suggests an experimental form of “treatment.” Dr. Hira explains that, through the use of a certain flesh-like plastic, a “mask” can be fashioned, it’s artificiality of which, is completely imperceptible (“Except around the eyes, you’ll need sunglasses for those,” Hira advises) to the human eye.
Okuyama accepts the idea and Dr. Hira finds a man whom he pays 10,000 yen in which to serve as the basis for the mask (by taking a mold of his face). When the procedure is complete, Hira informs Okuyama that the mask can only be worn for a maximum of twelve hours, after which the mask must be replaced with a fresh one.
And what follows are numerous events which proceed to reiterate the film’s major themes of anarchy and identity, the doppelganger and the individual. Eventually, Okuyama attempts to seduce his own wife whilst wearing his new face. He succeeds easily and when he derides her for being “unfaithful,” she responds that she knew it was him all along and assumed that he was trying to reinvigorate their marriage. She becomes disgusted when she learns that he tried to trick her into proving her loyalty and leaves. Okuyama wanders the streets, gets arrested for assaulting an unknown woman, and is released by Dr. Hira.
Dr. Hira’s assistant (played by Kyoko Kishida, known for providing narration for Vampire Princess Miyu and Princess Tutu, as well as acting in films such as Woman in the Dunes and An Autumn Afternoon) should receive special mention as well. Kishida played the title character in Teshigahara’s Woman in the Dunes and in this film, she plays a kind of chameleon (she is barely mentioned in the novel from what I remember); at one point offering sound, moral advice and at another, deceptive and immoral advice.
To touch on a few little details; the concept of the “mask” is really done well. Perhaps reading a synopsis of the film would sound trite and cliché, but Teshigahara makes the most of it and uses, what would be a restriction in the hands of most filmmakers, this rather common device to elaborate further on themes he has already (and will continue to elaborate on in following films such as The Ruined Map) touched upon in his previous works. The idea that Okuyama’s face is so disfigured as to take a shape similar (but not identical) to the man whom Dr. Hira took the mold from, is a subtle but brilliant touch. We never see Okuyama’s “original” face and this is for the better.
The idea of doubles is another recurring theme, not only in relation to Okuyama himself, but also in his actions and in conversations that reoccur throughout the film. For instance, Okuyama rents a different room from the same apartment complex once as his bandaged self and once as his “new” self. Cinematically, there’s also a recurrence of shots, so it’s a very organic film which reveals itself gradually over multiple viewings once one gets beyond the main plot.
The music for the film, composed by long-time Teshigahara collaborator (as well as contributor to numerous films by Akira Kurosawa such as Ran and Dodesukaden), Toru Takemitsu, is of course, brilliantly done. From the main waltz theme to the music in the club scenes, it’s all perfectly composed and dynamically tasteful (plus, I’m a sucker for glass harmonica).
One major deviation from the novel (which is only loosely connected to the main plot in the film itself) is a side story involving an unnamed woman whose beauty is marred by some strange disfigurement, the cause of which is never specified (though one can assume that it occurred as a result of atomic bombing – various references within the film imply this).
For me, the addition of this side-plot is unnecessary and it would’ve shaved off a few minutes from the film and tightened the focus on Okuyama’s plight if it had been excluded. This is the only significant flaw in the film for me, but not because it is uninteresting or done poorly, rather, that it is just over-egging the pudding so to speak.
Overall, this is one of my favourite films by Teshigahara (along with The Woman in the Dunes) and certainly an often overlooked classic by a highly regarded filmmaker. The film did poorly at the box office upon its initial inception I believe (and was scorned by critics at the time), but I’m of the opinion that it was because of the critical success of his previous film, The Woman in the Dunes that The Face of Another suffered such an extreme backlash.
And now for your input … I’ve rambled on here for long enough and hopefully haven’t robbed everyone of their comments on the film. What did everyone like/dislike about the film? How could it have been done better? What do you think of Teshigahara as a filmmaker in general? How does this film hold up (or overshadow) his other works? Et cetera, et cetera.
Deck, I’ll respond to this soon, for sure. One of my favorite movies, but I need to re-watch before I comment. Thanks for the great intro!!
This is the next movie I’ll be seeing, and I’m happy to be finally participating in this group. Sounds like an excellent film.
I want to write my thoughts before I read comments.
They may be a little muddled as I just have some random notes scrawled down:
The film was made after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and it is in some ways about those tragedies and where the region will go next.
The film is unreal sci fi treated without any camp value. Played very straight to its credit.
I was not suprised it was a Toho film because (much like Godzilla) it was a monster film played straight with a social message (tho I do not know if that message is a contrast between the beautiful scarred woman and the man, we care scars what matters if how we chose to live. Or maybe the message was Japan is moving toward a techno driven future or after a tragedy we can have a new start)
And the lead does become a monster. I would argue he begins as one (voicing that he would cut his films face so she could be as damaged as him). The doctor that molds him a new face and warns him it will change him and it does…eventually into a killer. The film was obviously a big influence on George Romero when he made Bruiser (which I like just a little better). I do like the film very much tho, it is beautifullly shot with surreal flights of fancy and the acting of Machiko Kyo is top notch, consider the way the wife looks at him when he hands a yoyo to the troubled girl (a look of concern like how would you know her, the kind of look a wife would give).
An excellent into.. Will post my thoughts/review in the morning.
I thought it was a very good film, 4/5, that served as an interesting exploration of one man’s inferiority-inspired psychosis.
As a comment on Japanese culture post-WWII, the theme of inferiority seems to be the most important for me. For such a proud culture, brought to an unthinkable surrender by two atomic bombs must have been quite jarring. I’d like to see what others think about this—my first reaction to the film.
Is this open to anyone to comment, even if not in the original group? Forgive me if this is meant for the participants.
Excellent write-up, Deckard. I am a fan of Teshigahara and love Abe – having read all of Abe’s translated works. The films Teshigahara made with Abe all capture their source material in a very faithful way. As Deckard mentions, Abe was heavily influenced by Western existentialism and the search for identity in its various guises permeates all of his work. His work is highly allegorical, much like Camus’ best work or Sartre’s Nausea. Fans of these other writers should not miss Abe. He also has a quirky sense of black humor, that is captured in this film, I think. I highly recommend Abe to anyone who enjoys this or any of the other film adaptations in which Teshigahara was involved.
Teshigahara was trained in graphic arts, I believe, and a student of modern art. That modernist doctor’s office shows his interest and fascination in abstract visual design – seen in all of his films from this period that I have seen. In this film, the disfigured man becomes another person just because he can escape his unpleasant reality and enter into a new one. Unfortunately for him, he quickly becomes disgusted with everyone around him, as his new face allows him to take on a completely different personality. He becomes suspicious of everyone and everybody, and disintegrates into paranoia and madness. We see this unfold in each carefully constructed scene.
I liked the the ending scenes where the protagonist walks into a crowd where everyone is wearing a faceless mask – symbolizing, I expect, his own disintegrating personality and grip on reality. It could also be an oblique commentary on how individualism is difficult in a group-based society such as Japan’s. All of Abe’s protagonists are ‘rugged individualists’ and outsiders, and this film just takes that to an extreme. A well-done film with lots of quirky details to recommend it. Also, as Deckard points out, great score by Takemitsu (another favorite of mine).
yes Bob it is open to anyone who has seen the film. I am glad u explained the ending a bit, it kind of confused me.
Next week we are watching Made in the USA and the week after Colors
I saw this a little while ago, and I can’t really make too many intelligent comments about the film. I liked it for the most part, but I did find the psychological aspects a little dated and maybe heavy-handed (not enough to dislike the film). Perhaps, I liked the film a little less because of two other films that cover similar terrain: Close Your Eyes (Abre Ojos?) and Seconds. Have you guys seen those films?
As Den said, this is open to everyone. I really hope you participate.
If anyone is interested in more info on the film, the video essay by James Quandt, on the criterion DVD, is very insightful.
It’s great reading everyones thoughts on this wonderful film.
Sorry for being late, I tried to get my thoughts straight but just can’t find much to say about the film.
I thought that the concept was pretty good but I just couldn’t get into it – I found the film extremely boring and disliked the main character beyond belief. (at least finally a movie monster that makes your skin crawl whenever he’s on the screen)
From the very beginning when he is sitting around annoying his wife I found him extremely whiny and annoying.
For most of the film he’s just blabbering some pseudo Kafkaesque chitter-chatter in the same monotonous tone. (Maybe the Greek subtitles were partially to blame but I found the dialogues quite empty)
I to liked the waltz theme and it was wonderfully photographed – the girl that played his wife was pretty good as well. Just not really my cup of tea. (I also disliked Teshigahara’s The Pitfall)
salem I agree with u a bit. The character hardly changed with the mask. He was a violent jerk from the start. It is refreshing to hate a protag tho (have not done that in a while) plus the film for me has other things going for it.
Have u seen Bruiser by Romero, what did u think of that film?
“He was a violent jerk from the start.”
Yes, he was extremely self centered, and a complete dick towards his wife (he also acted like a complete douche to that secretary) I really felt sorry for his wife for having been married to that guy from the beginning.
“It is refreshing to hate a protag tho”
Like I said there where parts and themes of the film that I really liked. It was mainly his long dialogues that went on my nerves (I do love long and theatrical dialogues in film, but I felt like punching him whenever he opened his mouth.)
Sadly never saw Bruiser.
I bought Criterion’s “Three Films by Hiroshi Teshigahara” shortly after its release and slowly worked my way through it, finally getting through The Face of Another earlier this year. I was happy to see an opportunity to participate in one of the “Simultaneous Watching and Analysis” topics, and watched the film again to do so.
It is a good film, but is overshadowed by the other two in the set, Pitfall and Woman in the Dunes. I believe it is not so well received outside of Japan, upon its initial release or even now, because it is a very uncomfortable film. It is about identity versus anonymity, dealing with the grotesque, full of discomfiting characters and settings, is a visual assault on the senses, and demanding the audience to take a hard look at itself, provoking the question what would I do under such circumstances. It’s a sinister film not much like an extended episode of “The Twilight Zone” delving deeply into existential and ethical self-consciousness.
As far as the visual aspects there is the floating X-ray skull of the protagonist recounting the tale of how he became disfigured, dizzying and disorienting close ups, camera angles, zooms, freeze-fames, mirrored images, rear projection, and edits. Probably most unnerving of all images is when there is a blinding, nuclear flash of light that sears through an anguished young man, transforming him into a photonegative image of a flayed cow hanging like a grotesque cruciform. It’s just not easy to sit through.
For the most part, the characters aren’t easy to like either. Okuyama is the disfigured protagonist, and I think Tatsuya Nakadai plays him very well. He runs a gamut of emotions quite convincingly; morose and self-pitying when wrapped in his bandages, tentative when first wearing his new face, animated when he gets used to it, and horrified when he realizes what he’s become as a result.
Okuyama is not a man easy to sympathize with. He morbidly ponders the loss of his face, his primary feature of identity, and what he considers the door to his soul, which is now forever blocked. In fact, it seems his soul as become as ugly as his face. He seems to resent his wife for not having suffered such as he has and her unblemished face is a constant reminder of his horrible visage. He needles her relentlessly and undeservingly. He is most loathsome when he tells her the notion he had to cut her face until it was as disfigured as his own, serving her right for spouting lies about how it’s no big deal. He tries to mitigate his caustic remark with a chuckle, as if it was a silly notion, but it still impacts her. It’s hard to tell if her horrified look is because he would entertain such an idea or because of the truth in it, that she could never imagine having her face, an attractive one at that, mutilated so.
Though it’s hard to sympathize with Okuyama, it shouldn’t be all too difficult to empathize with him. I remember the time I had a sty on my eye and was loath to leave the house for the better part of a week. It didn’t help when my girlfriend told me it was not that bad. I didn’t want to disfigure her, of course, but it was apparent she didn’t understand. A sty is a minor blemish, and temporary. I couldn’t imagine the prospect of such total and permanent disfigurement.
The doctor who supplies Okuyama with his new face takes on the role of the mad scientist. His office, though modern and glistening, is a sinister lab of sorts. The glass walls are decorated with Langer’s lines and DaVinci’s Vitruvian Man. Bodiless limbs float in liquid. A framed piece is full of bas-relief ears as if it were a display not unlike one would use when choosing eyeglass frames. These dispossessed appendages even serve utilitarian purposes too, such as an oversized ear as a bench. It’s a surreal setting. The doctor claims to be a psychiatrist and the limbs only represent inferiority complexes that “dig holes in the psyche” which he fills in (important enough to be repeated near the end of the film). With Okuyama he has found the perfect patient on whom to perform the ultimate experiment.
The doctor ponders the ethical problems of giving a man a new face, relenting when Okuyama mentions the notion of disfiguring his wife, saying that Okuyama has forced him into it. It seems a flimsy excuse, especially given he is a psychiatrist and should work to dissuade such ideas rather than give in to them, but it suffices enough for him to proceed.
The doctor then seems to project himself onto Okuyama, forming some sort of odious symbiosis. This is evident in scenes where their faces are almost superimposed on one another, most markedly when Okuyama’s profile intersects with the doctor’s portrait. They each have their stated and ulterior motives.
It becomes apparent that the doctor holds some grandiose ideas, in that if his experiment is successful he can mass produce the masks to the point of alleviating the world of fear, crime, and distrust, rendering obsolete suspicion and betrayal. That would seem far from the case, delusional even, and proves to be so, but he is lost in the fantasy of ridding the world of such problems and taking the glory. He even thinks of the mask as a living being, one of free will and able to control its wearer, even asking Okuyama at one point, “you sure the mask won’t mind?” Like Dr. Frankenstein, he has created a monster beyond what he envisioned.
Okuyama says his desire with the mask is to re-enter society, but his ulterior motive is to seduce his wife, that he wants her back. Once he does seduce her, he accuses her of betrayal, of being an adulterous and a slut, trying to strip away his mask and shame her in the act. This is largely his undoing.
Mrs. Okuyama is the most flawless of characters in this story. As difficult as he makes it for her to do so, she continues to love him and stand by him. He accuses her of acting the victim and in the end she is the ultimate victim. When he accuses her of adultery she says she knew it was him all along, that he was playing out this game as an act of generosity, and she was playing along because she thought it was his wish. He has betrayed himself, and her. He realized his error, but all too late. In his trap and accusations he lost her forever.
Ultimately the mask does overtake Okuyama. Once he loses his wife he succumbs to the desire to act maliciously under cover of anonymity provided by the mask. He is arrested after he accosts a woman, even claiming while handcuffed that they can’t punish him because he doesn’t exist. The doctor bails him out and seems to have a change of heart, seeing the flaw in his logic. They walk through a throng of people whose faces are obscured by formless masks, one of the film’s more memorable scenes, and the doctor asks for the mask. When Okuyama refuses the doctor tries to sever their ties, telling Okuyama he is now free. Okuyama thanks him, and then slips a knife into the doctor’s back.
I see the faceless crowd as complimentary to a very early scene where the camera is close up on the portrait of an individual, pulling back and doubling the portraits over and over again until it is just a sea of nameless and indistinguishable faces. Here the throng has no faces, displaying that in a sea of humanity one is largely anonymous and the doctor realizes he has done something hideously wrong.
When he can’t correct it, he leaves Okuyama on his own, figuring he will self-destruct soon enough. He has underestimated Okuyama who has become the monster seeking to kill his creator. Or, possibly, Okuyama blames the doctor for the new predicament of losing his self in his new identity, most evident in the loss of his wife. The final scene is Okuyama feeling at the mask with a terrified look on his face, as if realizing that the mask is alive, a monster that has taken control of him and turned him into a monster; he can’t live without it and he can’t live with it.
Teshigara’s film is primarily about Okuyama, but there is more to it, a secondary story of a young woman and her brother. It would almost seem an irrelevant piece to the story, but that is not so. I think it does serve an important purpose, and part of that is exhibited by how much can be said about the main story without even mentioning this one. It is the film’s subconscious. Even as we ourselves may not be aware of our subconscious self at times, so it is with this film.
I see this secondary story as a counterbalance to the primary. Here is a very beautiful young woman whose face is marred, though not explicitly stated but is widely accepted, as a result of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan at the end of World War II. Judging by her age she was an infant at the time and she makes an allusion to Nagasaki as if that were her home, so it is very likely. Surviving bomb victims are called hibakusha, and not only do they suffer discrimination, so do their children, so the stigma she bears goes beyond the ridicule she endures as a result of her disfigurement.
Where I see this story as a counterbalance comes mostly from the observation that in almost all cases the scenes of the young girl and her brother are immediately preceded by, or intermingled with, scenes of Okuyama and his wife. The marked differences between the two stories are innocence, altruism, and options.
The young girl, though disfigured, still seems to embody everything Okuyama lacks, though maybe he is somewhat aware of these traits, explaining why I call it the film’s subconscious. The film wouldn’t be complete without it. The girl has an innocent outlook on life. She doesn’t wallow in self-pity, but instead volunteers her help in a mental ward, apparently for veterans. She doesn’t posses Okuyama’s sardonic outlook or seeking out of self-centered ends. Nor does she even have those options. In the end she sees only one way out. She seduces her brother so as to know physical love once in her life and then wades into the ocean to end it all.
It is a deep and thought provoking film. Frankly, I don’t know how to grade it. I would certainly call it a good film, but it is a heavy film, one provoking uncomfortable introspection through uncomfortable scenarios. If I were to rate it lowly, it would be because of how uncomfortable of a film it could be, but it is that discomfort that is essential to the film. Ah, hell, I give it 8/10. It may be a difficult film, but it’s one I would gladly come back to and watch again.
Edward – thank you for your very perceptive and detailed analysis of the film. From your descriptions, I felt like I was watching and thinking about what I was seeing again. Excellent! Having seen the film once only, I think you have accurately pegged the major themes.
The mask provides anonymity which I think is one of the keys to the story. It allows Okuyama to feed his own frustrations and take them out on those around him. As Edward points out, his wife is his most sympathetic victim here. The mask brings out his worst traits, but it is implied in the film that these existed in him, dormant so to speak, waiting for the mask to unfold. It is a grim tale, full of sarcasm about human nature. Thanks for reminding me of the secondary plot, which provides an interesting corollary to the main one – surely a more redemptive way of seeing the mask, even though the end of the young woman is even more tragic. She reflects yet another layer here, that society exists only for the superficial aspects of any person – in this case, the face. When we lose our face, we lose our identity in society – then anything can happen.
In any case, Edward has hit all the relevant points, I think. All I can add here is that the question of anonymity which the mask provides to Okuyama, is also an interesting aspect of life on the internet. On the internet, most people live behind an alias – a mask – that allows them sometimes to do things they would not otherwise do. Perhaps this very anonymity – like the mask – can bring out the worst aspects of a person’s behavior. Which means this film is prescient of our contemporary reality, where the mask becomes a metaphor for our own online anonymity. Just some further food for thought.
Thanks, Edward. Posts such as yours and your insights into this film are precisely the reason I am on this site.
It is about identity versus anonymity
is it anonymity?
More like this: we lose our identity in society – then anything can happen
As the psychiatrist states in the film, a face, easily taken off, will leave us without the social duality that tells us we exist:
A world without family, friends or enemies.
There’ll be no crimes because there’ll be no criminals.
No one’ll want freedom because we’ll all be free.
No one’ll run away because there’ll be no place to run from.
Loneliness and friendship will be one.
There’ll be no need for trust among people.
There’ll be no suspicions or betrayals.
Taking that mask off (being able to) eliminates the space between society and the individual, where one’s identity is formed. It is there in that space where the link to society or social conscience is found.
The subplot follows a young hibakusha woman – she has been injured by society and has turned inward, surrounding herself with herself.
First as a veteran hospital volunteer, also victims of society, and then surrounding herself with herself by way of incest.
Teshigahara thus shows us alternatives the individual vs. society theme. He seems to suggest that we have no choice but to belong.
^ He seems to suggest that we have no choice but to belong.
Agreed. I see that loss of identity as a greater form of anonymity. The prospect of such a situation makes me think of some of the hypothetical games people can play: “If you were assured you would not get caught, would you, fill in the blank with whatever scenario ranging from the relatively benign to committing murder?” Okuyama, with his lack of identity—rather than new identity—does succumb to that temptation.
The doctor’s ideas of stripping away those social dualities are what I saw as delusional. I think he believed the world would be a better place, and it would seem so without enemies, yearning for freedom, suspicion, and betrayal. I believe such an existence to be impossible, but if it were, would we even desire it? Friendship, freedom, and trust are necessary things, but really can’t exist, or be fully valued, without the existence of loneliness, imprisonment—figurative or literal, or suspicion. Having a face that can be easily taken off in such a way would leave us lonelier than ever, imprisoned within our own psyche, and suspicious of others we can never know. To me, it’s a horrible prospect, as I suspect it would be to most.
Bob Stutsman brings up a point about the internet that had certainly crossed my mind but got lost in the shuffle of my earlier ramblings. The internet does offer the ability to interact with others in almost total anonymity. At first it may be liberating to speak your mind anonymously, saying things you typically wouldn’t otherwise, but it is a power, of sorts, that can be—and is—abused. This is evident in some forums, and online blogs, op-eds, and articles where some people dispense with almost all social graces and civility to spew some of the most hateful sentiments imaginable. I recently read an article where some online media outlets are considering doing away with allowing anonymous comments to counter some of the vitriol that is becoming commonplace, most notably on divisive topics such as politics and religion.
With the relative recency of facial transplants being possible, and the ethical questions raised by such a procedure, The Face of Another has proven to be prescient. It is an online society of greater reach and anonymity where it has shown to be most prescient.
Has anyone thought about the parallels of this film with the earlier French film Eyes Without a Face (1960)? In that film, a woman is also badly disfigured in an accident and her surgeon father tries to restore it by giving her a face transplant – unfortunately with the aid of living victims. It is well within the horror format, but has some interesting parallels to Face of Another. For example, the disfigured woman also wears a mask throughout most of the film. In this case, it doesn’t really alter her behavior as much as it serves as a shield.
Also, the whole concept of the mask to hide our identity or to bring out another anonymous identity is fascinating in itself. Think of the concept of the masked ball and how inhibitions are allowed to vanish. Think also of the mask as a ritual item, such as its use to convey a totem in certain aboriginal ceremonies. Again, the mask reflects the power or story it is intended to convey. The performer must become the character/totem the mask represents. Think also of the mask in Noh drama, which surely must have been at the back of Teshigahara’s mind when making this film.
Edward – thanks for expanding on my own comments re anonymity and the internet. We have certainly had our share of bad behavior on this site, almost always from users who again ‘hide’ under their anonymous name. I had to ‘hide’ here myself, even going so far as to close my account at the time (since becoming a habit with me, unfortunately) because a troll was sending me constant abusive messages – all hiding behind his anonymity.
I think anonymity is the new curse of the internet, as it often brings out people’s worst behavior, just like driving one’s car down a busy street and being ‘anonymous’ behind the wheel. We can all become like Okuyama behind our mask of anonymity. Like he finds out, what’s to stop us?
@Bob Stutsman Redux
I questioned anonymity because there are several instances in the film where Teshigahara shows us not to go there: the dog, the yo-yo, the wife.
The most perplexing thing is the doctor’s foreshadowing the bad outcome.
It was while viewing the most annoying foreshadowing ever done in a film, that I eventually realized that it would be resolved to be a peanut butter sandwich.
He is not telling us people will be bad, but that we are perhaps lost without society.
Quite different from the examples you gave, Okuyama has no where to go once he takes off the mask.
I haven’t seen the film since probably last summer. I’m enjoying how everyone interprets the film. Just as a minor feature in the movie, I like the avant garde type music. I believe there is also some jazz music in it as well, but there is a good amount of music that is not like typical Hollywood type music. I’m not talking about the music played during the beginning credits and I believe similar music was used like that at the end of the film, but music played during the film that was sort of, for lack of a better word, John Cage sounding. Sort of like modern classical music that I believe works well with the story that is being told in this film. I do not know a lot of music terminology so I’m trying the best I can to explain what I am talking about with those sorts of descriptions. I guess you could say that the music is more illustrating a concept through a more abstract set of musical notes than a more relatable set of notes that are much easier to interpret because some other kinds of films have music scores that sort of re emphasize the mood of the film that you can also see being portrayed on the screen both visually and sound wise as well. Around that same time period, I saw Pitfall as well and it uses a similar type of music too. I haven’t seen Women In The Dunes for at least a decade or more, but I believe the score may have been similar as well. I believe all three of those films were scored by Toru Takemitsu as well, right?
Some really insightful comments which was what I was hoping for. For whoever mentioned Seconds (a CLASSIC in my opinion, but that is very debatable – and rightfully so), I think they were right on. Those films are very similar and perhaps my fondness for Frankenheimer’s film biased me towards Teshigahara’s … anyway. Also, Eyes with a Face is a similar theme. It’s not really an unusual or obscure theme though, so I’m sure there are many many similarly themed films/book/stories/etc if we really wanted to get into that.
“is it anonymity?”
I really think that is major part of the film. I mean, let’s just ignore the ending which brings that concept of anonymity to the forefront in a completely figurative but obvious way, and consider, for a moment, what are the consequences of “anonymity?” As someone stated earlier, the Internet is such a catalyst for anonymity and what is lost by such a reaction? Identity and individuality are lost, and in this particular case, the loss of the uniqueness of a man scarred by a freak accident beyond his control (or at least as far as we know, no one mentions/implies that he is responsible in any way for the accident). In this film we never see what made this character an individual, all we see is his obession with, not regaining his individuality, but sinking into the pit of anonymity which, as Robert also pointed out (and I agree), has moral (or rather immoral) implications.
Also, Salem is completely right as well about the unlikability of the protagonist and I think that’s pretty uncontested. He’s an asshole and that’s what he’s supposed to be. We never see this man before the accident, so it’s uncertain as to whether his personality was calloused by the incident or if he was always this way (even in a less exaggerated way, but still a hint of it possibly …). Anyway, I don’t think (and I’ve harped on this before, so I won’t exasperate everyone by harping on it again) a character’s “unlikability” should be responsible for a low opinion of the film (whatever the film may be), but then again, that’s just a part of my own cosmology.
@Hal 9000: Yes, all three films were scored by Takemitsu.
I decided to watch the film again tonight and I noticed during this viewing that the sound in a lot of the movie was controlled. What I mean by that, is that when Tatsuya Nakadai walks down a street in urban Japan you don’t hear the cars passing by or other street noise. You can also see sound being taken out of a film like Ikiru which I guess makes us focus on the main character. I think, if I can remember correctly from this viewing, that some of the scenes where you see Tatsuya Nakadai pass through the crowd during the film, I believe you hear the noise of the street. When we see the faceless mob at the end of the film, I believe there is no sound. When I earlier commented on saying that the music sounded like John Cage, upon this viewing, I think it was basically traditional Japanese instruments being used. I watched the video essay on the disc again and heard the person discussing the film that they used a glass harmonica for some of the sound within the film. I guess most of the music within the film is supposed to sound like Noh drama, but that is just a guess, where people wear masks. I think the music might also represent the state of mind that the main character is in. Just my two cents.
Well, I think you’re on to something there when you mention John Cage because the soundtrack is very much like indeterminism. No, we don’t have prepared pianos blonking along, but that’s just one little aspect of Cage’s career. It’s also interesting that you mention the sound, because that was very “controlled” (in its own way) and Teshigahara (or rather him along with those involved in the sound mixing/soundtrack department) seemed to enjoy playing with this throughout the film.
And to correct my previous post, I meant to say, “…a character’s “unlikability” shouldn’t be responsible for a low opinion of the film.”
This is a complex film and will defy the like/not like – me/not me perspective.
Teshigahara is showing us that Okuyama doesn’t fit in at home or at work.
It is his situation that matters, not his likeability.
Okuyama suffers from immense amounts of conflict because he has no identity vis-à-vis (“face to face”) with the situation: in his mind he doesn’t belong at home or at work. People are trying to be supportive, but he doesn’t accept it.
As bandaged, he is different, he is an individual – that is the problem. “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.”
I think this is a cultural thing. Individuality is not a significant “Eastern” POV – belonging is more important. Hence, we never see what made this character an individual.
DC: let’s just ignore the ending which brings that concept of anonymity to the forefront in a completely figurative…
You would have you explain what you mean, but here is how I see that scene:
In that scene he has a face – it is his people that are bandaged. The scene is showing, sans mask, that he is one of them and that he is moving against them, against belonging.
Well, I actually agree with what you’re saying. I’m just not sure how what I’m saying contradicts that. Anyway, I don’t know, I need to get some sleep, heh.
Well, I don’t know the etiquette for posting on these threads once the next one starts, so will make a quick addition before it does start.
I don’t think it’s so much Okuyama being a dick that makes the film difficult to like. I used the word “empathy” before, but maybe that wasn’t the right word. Maybe “forced introspection” something is more like I was thinking. What’s hard to stomach about his sardonic demeanor is how the film makes it difficult to not place ourselves in his shoes. It’s hard to imagine what it may be like to, quite literally, lose our face, and if we were to turn the lens on ourselves realize that we too may behave similarly, much as we’d like to believe otherwise.
On a side note, it has been a pleasure participating in this discussion. It has revealed much more about the movie than I would have found on my own. I appreciated others’ perception and insights, feel like I’ve gotten to more fully appreciate a worthy film, and noticed and learned things that otherwise would have escaped my attention. I also feel like I’ve gotten to know some of the other members here a little more as I become more actively involved in the forums. Thanks to all for your input. I look forward to checking out some of the other films mentioned above. Thank you, Deckard Croix, for putting together the comprehensive intro. I certainly look forward to participating in the future. Cheers to all!
Edward, there’s essentially no “etiquette” to these threads beyond being respectful (which you have been, I’m just sayin’ considering recent events on this forum). There’s no time limit or anything in which to comment. Even though it is called “Simultaneous Watching and Analysis,” we understand that not everyone can set aside their daily responsibilities to simply devote to discussing a film, so it’s not that big of a deal.
I’ve appreciated your valuable comments to this discussion as well. The next discussion, I believe, is Godard’s Made in U.S.A. … but who will be introducing that, I have no idea.
I dont know where else to post this….is anyone extremely annoyed by the fact that Okuyama somehow still has the knife with him in his jacket pocket after coming out of prison? You would think the guards would take then when he came in. Or am I missing something….someone tell me what i missed…because that little thing is like ruining the whole movie for me lol