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Postwar Facial Reconstruction

Georges Franju's Eyes Without a Face

Stefanos Geroulanos

This essay proposes a reading of Georges Franju's Eyes Without a Face that focuses on the cultural and philosophical contexts of the face, its destruction, and imagined reconstruction in postwar France. The film foregrounds the protagonist's lack of a face and the effort to restore it into a cinematic argument heralding the ruin of natural beauty and genuine face-to-face relations, an approach that in turn theorizes the postwar world as premised on ethical and aesthetic opacity. By considering contemporary treatments of the face, as well as the representations of injury and violence, the essay argues that at stake in the political and aesthetic judgments proposed by the failed face transplants in the film was a concern with the technological reconstruction of a natural and pure state, a reconstruction that was now seen as impossible and could have devastating consequences at the ethical and aesthetic levels.