Tuesday, July 26, 2005

One's Many Faces

"A debate is raging over a microsurgeon's plan to transplant a face," read the caption on the New York Times homepage. The tease worked -- transplant a face? the horror! -- and I immediately clicked on the article. "A New Face: A Bold Surgeon, an Untried Surgery" discusses the difficulty of the surgery and the ethics involved in performing such a procedure.

Most people who have read Autobiography of a Face, by Lucy Grealy, or Ann Patchett's Truth and Beauty, about her friendship with Grealy, can probably understand the importance of the face in society. The chopping off of noses is a punishment in some parts of the world. The Smile Train, a nonprofit, performs cleft lip and palate surgery on children whose families could not otherwise afford it. Extreme Makeover.

Some people might even know of the fantastic French movie, Les Yeux Sans Visage, or Eyes Without a Face, about a woman whose face is disfigured in a car accident. Her father subsequently kidnaps girls and cuts off their faces to transplant them onto his daughter's face. I saw the film in a college class on horror movies, and it really was terrifying, the idea of something so intimate as one's face being removed from oneself. The film isn't that graphic. The violence is, save for a few seconds, suggested. Still, one of my classmates fainted during the viewing.

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