THE FACE OF ANOTHER (1966)
aka Tanin no kao
Article 4504 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara
Featuring Tatsuya Nakadai, Mikijiro Hira, Kyoko Kishida
What it is: SF Drama
A man feels his identity is slipping away after an industrial accident leaves him horribly scarred. His psychiatrist offers him the opportunity to have a lifelike mask (modeled off of another person) created for him by a new process, with the ulterior motive of trying to discover if the mask grants the patient with a new identity.
IMDB classifies this movie as a science fiction drama. One of the user reviews makes a point of claiming that some of the surreal scenes that pepper the movie don’t really make it qualify for that genre. While I do agree that the scenes in question don’t make the movie science fiction (though they nudge the movie into fantasy territory), I do believe the movie could qualify as science fiction anyway. Since a realistic mask of this sort didn’t exist at the time the movie was made (or now, as far as I know), the movie becomes a speculative exploration of the impact of a new scientific discovery/creation on those who encounter it, and that’s one of the definitions that cause something to qualify. It uses the device to explore identity and the role physical appearance plays in the shaping of it; there’s a lot of speculation as well on the impact that would occur if these masks became commonplace. It took me a while to realize it, but it would make a nice companion feature with SECONDS from the same year, another movie dealing with appearance and identity. The movie is quite fascinating, and well worth a watch. There’s also a secondary story interspersed throughout the movie about a girl badly scarred on one side of her face, though the fantastic content is much less pronounced in this side story.