Movie Reviews 452 – The Three Faces of Eve (1957)

The first time I ever heard of the concept of multiple personalities was when the Made-for-TV movie Sybil was broadcast in 1976 to much fanfare and advance promotion. I was fascinated by the revelation that a person could have split personalities sharing one body and mind. The film itself was something of a sensation (more on that later) so I assumed this was all new scientific ground being adapted into a movie drama. Little did I realize at the time that this was well trodden ground having already been covered in the classic The Three Faces of Eve.

Based on a book written by a psychiatrist documenting the real life case of a housewife who was diagnosed with the dissociative identity disorder, Joanne Woodward plays the part of Eve White, a housewife who suddenly exhibits strange behaviour while claiming to have memory lapses coinciding with her out of character conduct. With friction developing between her husband and exhibiting danger to her daughter, she seeks the help of a psychiatrist (Lee J. Cobb) who incredulously sees her transform before his very eyes. Under hypnosis the normal quiet and demure Eve White first becomes Eve Black, a young spirited, outspoken even flirtatious persona who is well aware of Eve White’s presence.

Convinced she is not faking the metamorphosis the doctor is presented with a quandary as to whether he should even tell his patient the root cause of her blackouts. But as Eve Black becomes ever more troublesome she is told and in short time Eve White can command Eve Black to appear whenever she wants.

Temporarily separated from her husband and daughter Eve White tries to live with her inner demon, but Black becomes ever bolder and basically escapes every night to party at local bars and dance halls. A tipping point is reached and eventually when Eve Black herself confesses to having her own blackouts and yet another persona, Jane emerges. And Jane it turns out holds the biggest secret of all.

Woodward deservingly won an academy award for her role, or should I say roles, as she manages to almost magically and convincingly reconstruct before our very eyes. Ironically she would go on to play the psychiatrist role in Sybil which was supposed based on an entirely different real life case. Both Eve/Jane and Sybil’s real names were revealed in time and both microscopically investigated both academically and journalistically regarding the veracity of their claims, which remain mostly inconclusive to this day.

Not your usual film in any way as it can be viewed as either a biopic or docu-drama or just plain drama. Highly recommended either way. From all three of us.

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