Severely scarred in a work accident, businessman Okuyama (Nakadai) wears bandages wrapped around his head. He convinces his psychiatrist (Hira) to make a mask for him, sculpted out of very thin plastic. Wearing this new “identity” changes Okuyama. He seduces his wife (Kyo), but she claims to have known it was him all along. Meanwhile, a young girl (Irie) with her own facial disfigurement encounters social rejection by all but her brother.
In his third collaboration with avant-garde novelist/screenwriter Kobo Abe, Teshigahara explores physical appearance and its effect on identity. Using a variety of visual techniques and blending real and surreal mise en scène, the Japanese director keeps the audience off-balance, accentuating Okuyama’s mental disintegration. Science-fiction meets high art in this eerie, existential study of alienation.