Professor Sharrona Pearl presented the talk “A Man Without A Face is Free Only When Darkness Rules the World: Face Transplants in 1960s Cinema” during a colloquium by the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Arts and Sciences’ Cinema Studies Program earlier this month.
About her talk:
Something was going on with faces in the 1960s. More specifically, something was going on with face transplants – an as-of-yet unrealized procedure – in the 1960s, something filled with concern and fear and more than a bit of anger. It had to be discussed and experienced and worked out, playfully with just that edge of seriousness (bordering on revulsion, bordering on dystopia, firmly situated in the horrific) in the medium best suited for a topic so improbable and yet so tantalizing, so fictional and yet so very visual. I explore 3 1960s films of journeys of self-discovery (that went nowhere), with narratives of self-transformation (that failed), around radical re-presentation of identity (that destabilized identity itself.) Something happens in the movies when people try to change themselves by changing their faces with those of others. And what happens is that they get punished, severely. What happens is that someone always dies. This talk will explore the films The Face of Another, Eyes Without A Face, and Seconds, exploring the surgical imaginary of the face transplant and its stakes for self-transformation and its ultimate failure.