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Cult Movie Essentials: The Face of Another (1966)

Directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara and based on the novel of the same name by Kōbō Abe, The Face of Another follows an engineer named Mr. Okuyama (Tatsuya Nakadai), whose face is severely burnt in an unspecified work-related accident and is given a new face in the form of a lifelike mask by Dr. Hira (played by Mikijirō Hira).

Before building the mask, Hira and Okuyama pay a man 10,000 yen to serve as the model for it and it is soon built and fitted. Hira cautions Okuyama that the mask may change his behaviour and personality so much that he will cease to be the same person that he was. Hira believes that this disassociation with his identity will cause Okuyama to lose his sense of morality if he is not careful!

As the film continues Okuyama tells no one he has received the mask, and simply lives as a new man, telling his wife (Machiko Kyō) that he is traveling on business while he rents an apartment nearby. While continuing to dismiss Hira’s fears, he decides to seduce his wife using his new identity. When he obtains this too easily, full of rage, he reveals himself to her, who in turn said she had known from the first moment. Their roles are now swapped, as Okuyama tries to persuade her to give their relationship another chance and she leaves disappointed…

Director Hiroshi Teshigahara said that he intended the film to explore both personal and cultural identities. While the examination of personal identity is quite overt, Teshigahara also explored how Japan’s cultural identity had been impacted by World War II and its aftermath.

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