The Face of Another (film)

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The Face of Another
The Face of Another poster.jpg
Directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara
Produced by Hiroshi Teshigahara
Written by Kōbō Abe
Starring Tatsuya Nakadai
Machiko Kyō
Eiji Okada
Kyoko Kishida
Mikijiro Hira
Miki Irie
Music by Toru Takemitsu
Cinematography Hiroshi Segawa
Edited by Fusako Shuzui
Distributed by Toho
Release dates
  • July 15, 1966 (1966-07-15)
Running time
122 minutes
Country Japan
Language Japanese

The Face of Another (他人の顔 Tanin no kao?) is a 1966 Japanese film directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara and based on the novel of the same name written by Kōbō Abe. The story follows an engineer, Okuyama, whose face is severely burnt in an unspecified work-related accident and is given a new face in the form of a lifelike mask.


Okuyama's face was disfigured in an industrial accident, and his face is completely covered in burns; he wears bandages to cover them. He visits Dr. Hira, a psychiatrist who is able to fashion a "mask" for Okuyama to wear which is indistinguishable from the face on which it is modeled.

Hira and Okuyama pay a man 10,000 yen to serve as the model for the mask, and the mask is built and fitted onto Okuyama. Hira cautions Okuyama that the mask may change his behavior 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.

Okuyama tells no one that he has received the mask, and simply lives as a new man, telling his wife that he is traveling on business while he rents an apartment nearby. He decides to seduce his wife, and does so with surprising ease. Afterwards he confronts his wife, angry that she had so readily been unfaithful to him, and she tells him that she knew all along that it was him. She assumed that he had devised the scenario as a masquerade which would rekindle their marriage.

Okuyama's wife is disgusted when she finds that he was trying to trap her, and leaves. Okuyama follows her home, but she refuses to let him enter, and so he wanders the streets. He encounters a woman, assaults her in the street, and is arrested. Hira picks him up from the police station, and the two walk out into the night. They encounter a crowd of faceless people walking in the opposite direction. When the crowd passes, Okuyama stabs Hira.

Interleaved throughout the film is a completely separate tale (present in Abe's original novel in the form of a movie the protagonists watches at a cinema and then recounts) of a young woman whose otherwise beautiful face suffered a severe disfigurement on the right cheek, and right side of the neck. She works in a home for World War II veterans and lives with her brother. The imagery of the film, as well as her obsessive worry about the coming of another war, and her asking her brother if he still remembers the sea at Nagasaki (presumably from their childhood there), all suggest that her scars came as a result of the atomic bombing of that city.[1] Like Okuyama, she is embarrassed by her disfigurement. She uses her long hair to partially conceal it. The film suggests that she is tormented by her solitude and starved for physical affection. At the end of the film she leaves her brother a suicide note, and drowns herself by walking into the ocean.


The film is often described as being the third in a trilogy of films by Teshigahara, following his two earlier films Pitfall and The Woman in the Dunes. These were both also based on novels by Kōbō Abe, shot by Hiroshi Segawa, and scored by Toru Takemitsu. Like the other two films, The Face of Another was shot in black and white and in full-frame aspect ratio, even though these formats had gone out of style by the time of its production. Common themes in these films deal are identity, masks, doppelgangers, and distorted social relations.

The film uses several doublings of shots, both by repeating shots verbatim and by placing the main character in nearly identical shots twice. The most obvious example is in Okuyama's two separate rentals of apartments, once masked, and once with his new face. These doublings highlight Okuyama's double existence.[1]


One recurring image is the large and small severed ears which appears in the scenery in several scenes. These ears were designed and sculpted by Japanese sculptor Tomio Miki.[1]

Hira's office, a strange blank space with glass partitions, was designed by architect Arata Isozaki, a friend of Teshigahara's.[1] The glass walls are painted with Langer's lines and the Vitruvian Man.


The film was successful in Japan, but outside the country, the film was a critical and financial failure at the time of its release.[1] Audiences and critics largely felt that it did not live up to Teshigahara's earlier film The Woman in the Dunes.[1] The film review website Rotten Tomatoes lists the movie as having a 100% rating (based on 7 reviews).[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f James Quandt, Video Essay included on the Criterion Collection DVD release of The Face of Another.
  2. ^ The Face of Another (I Have a Stranger's Face) (Tanin no kao), Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2012-10-10

External links[edit]