Cast & Crew
Nina, a wealthy woman in her mid-twenties, has inherited an upscale building near New York's Central Park where she lives reclusively with her dog in one of the apartments. She spends her time designing collages from broken mirrors and photographs, and receives long distance phone calls from her father, her grandmother and a mysterious person with a whispery voice, who talks like an assassin. When violent events reported by radio and television news broadcasts and the jarring city sounds from the street below lead Nina to paranoia, she vacillates between nightmares, hallucinations and reality. A dark, menacing but sexually intriguing man in a leather jacket, who might be a hallucination or the roommate of a transvestite living in a neighboring apartment, hovers in the elevator and hallway, and disappears when Nina tries to show him to anyone else. When a psychiatrist sent by her father visits her, a delivery of forty-seven dollars worth of Chinese food that she did not order also arrives at her door. Nina becomes further unhinged when the window shades in her apartment seem to rise or lower when she is out of the room. After a date in Greenwich Village with her boyfriend Larry, Nina returns one night to find her belongings packed and crated for moving. Nina begins to suspect that her father has arranged for the terrifying events in order to gain control of her property and eventually moves to her deceased grandmother's country estate, where she wanders the deserted grounds, smiling madly to herself.
Ken Van Sickle
Make a Face was the only feature film of Karen Sperling, who was the daughter of writer-producer Milton Sperling and granddaughter of Warner Bros. executive Harry Warner. According to Filmfacts, she spent one year seeking financing for the film, but eventually paid the $226,000 cost of the picture from a $1,000,000 inheritance she had received. According to an August 1971 Variety news item and Filmfacts, the film, which Sperling intended as the first of a trilogy, was shot in and near Sperling's Manhattan apartment, which was in The Dakota, a famed apartment building that was home to a number of celebrities. Filmfacts reported that Make a Face was initially shot during eight weeks in the fall of 1969, and that fifty percent of it was re-shot in eight days the following spring.
The Variety review reported that the film contained little dialogue. Instead the film emphasized a "philosophical-psychological" moodiness. The Village Voice reviewer compared the picture to such melodramas as Gaslight and Sudden Fear (see entries above and below). The Saturday Review (of Literature) critic stated that Sperling described her film as "experiential" and containing "images of the fragmentation of an individual personality." The New York Times review noted that the "mystery of personality" was emphasized at the expense of a plot containing a seed of a terrifying mystery story. According to Filmfacts, Sperling had stated that much of the film was autobiographical.
Box Office and Variety reviews reported that split-screen, overlapping sound and other filmic devices were used to convey the story. The theme of reflections is featured in scenes in which fragmented images appear in "Nina's" collages. Another sequence mentioned in reviews involved shots of Nina making love while she also is seen discussing her artwork on a television set. The New York Times review described the image of multiple shots of television screens as appearing to be "projected into a series of repeating mirrors."
All characters, except for Sperling's, appear in bit roles or are telephone voices. The New York Times review suggested that the answer to the mystery of the film is that Sperling's character contained multiple personalities.