On the platform for cinephiles MUBIhas been visible for a few weeks The eye that killsone of the best known and most controversial films, as well as sadistic English thrillers of every era, as well as one of the qualitative apexes of the large film production of the great British director Michael Powell.
The irrepressible obsessions of a shy voyeur cameraman
The face of death: this is the obsession that devastates the thoughts of the young film technician Mark Lewis.
He is a reserved and shy young man of good looks, the owner of a large real estate heritage inherited from his parents. He is an antisocial who prefers to concentrate on work and the only alternative interest has to do with his specific technical occupation.
A hobby that ends up making him a brutal serial killer. He targets young women, often uninhibited, who somehow end up tormenting him with their cruel and careless attitude.
Women he loves to film in the instant before their violent death, perpetrated through some fiendish sharp devices hidden in his inseparable camera.
Which ends up capturing the last moments of the victims, capturing their genuine expression, the only true one and not made up of even sophisticated acting skills.
The same attitude, the same expression of terror, or at least not very dissimilar from the one that changed the boy’s facial features, when he was subjected to cruel experiments by the famous scientist father who, soon became a widower, used his son as a guinea pig for some related studies examining the spontaneous reactions of the psyche, towards fear, and the emotional states perceived without warning.
The eye that kills – the review
In the same year that Alfred Hitchcock shocked audiences with the heinous deeds of Norman Bates in Psyco, Michael Powellhere without the credit line Pressburgerventured with no less clamor and happy artistic results, on a morbid story with gloomy hues (even in the sparkle of sadistically provocative colors with which the film is shot), which completely goes beyond the versatile themes dealt with in the previous cinematography.
“Do you know what’s the scariest thing in the world? Fear.
That’s why I did something very simple, really very simple: when they felt this tip touching their throat, and they knew I was going to kill them, I forced them to witness their own death, I forced them to look at the terror that appeared from their eyes. ; and if death has a face, they saw that too “
The study of the character is fantastic for the depth of the facets in which his way of reacting is inserted: the script requires to tell us, long before the victims, the controversial thoughts that feed and enrich the sick fantasies of the protagonist. Material executioner, but in fact the first true victim of unspeakable suffering suffered as a boy due to an inadequate and inhumane father who treated him like a guinea pig.
A shocking reflection on the drift of human feelings, but also a lashing analysis on the distortions of voyeurism (the original title “Peeping Tom” refers to the perverse morbid action of “voyeurs”).
As often happens in Powell’s cinema, once again the primary roles are not entrusted to stars of primary magnitude or of the Hollywood firmament, but of absolute expressive value and unforgettable interpretative success.
This is what happens here with the solid Karlheinz Böhman actor with an experience built up also thanks to directors of the caliber of Fassbinder, but not really an international star of primary notoriety.
Powell wisely structures the story making the viewer almost complicit in Mark’s atrocities, or at least a passive contemplator, and therefore inevitably conniving with the grim deeds of the psychopath. However, without forgetting to give his character also a trail of basic sensitivity (the pure love he feels towards the curious young tenant) that does not avoid turning him into a criminal madman anyway, but contributes to making him a more human character, more complex, less monotonous as happens to many “bad guys” built more blandly and with fewer facets than this.