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A Woman's Face

A Woman's Face(1941)


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In Stockholm, Sweden, as Anna Holm enters a courtroom waiting for her murder trial to begin, witnesses are sworn in. The first witness, Herman Rundvik, relates the following testimony: Late one night, at a rural tavern, aristocrat Torsten Barring hosts a party that includes Vera, the faithless wife of noted plastic surgeon Gustav Segert. When the tavern will no longer extend Torsten credit, he charms Anna Holm, the badly scarred proprietress, into signing his check. Bernard Dalvik then testifies that he, Anna and Rundvik made most of their money from blackmail: One day, just after Torsten visits Anna, who has fallen in love with him, Vera arrives, begging Dalvik to help her retrieve letters that she has written to a lover. Vera then testifies: Anna takes the letters to Vera but hatefully demands more money because Vera is beautiful. Vera is at first frightened by Anna, but when Anna becomes lost in thought talking about love, Vera cruelly shines a light on her face. While Vera is getting her jewels to pay for the letters, Gustav comes home unexpectedly and Anna falls as she tries to elude him. Thinking that Anna is a thief, Gustav wants to call the police, but Vera pretends to take pity on her and convinces him to let her go. Gustav becomes intrigued by Anna's scars and caustic manner, and offers to perform plastic surgery on her. Anna is sworn in next. After briefly relating that her childhood scars were caused when her drunken father accidentally started a fire, she describes her relationship to Torsten: Because he treats her as if she is beautiful and charming, Anna suspiciously asks what trouble he is in and he suggests that he is not now in trouble but might need her help in the future. Anna then tells the court that she submitted to twelve operations because she loved Torsten: Two years after the initial operation, Anna has turned into a beautiful woman no longer ridiculed by strangers. After leaving Gustav's Swiss clinic, she goes to Torsten, who did not know where she was, and he obliquely tells her that his uncle, Consul Magnus Barring, who is very old and very rich, is leaving everything to his four-year-old grandson, but if something happens to the grandson, Torsten will inherit everything. Although Anna does not want to murder anyone, she agrees to help Torsten by posing as a governess. Using the name Ingrid Paulson, Anna is hired by the consul on Torsten's recommendation and goes to live in his chateau. Despite her attempts to remain aloof, she finds that she likes the kindly consul and his sweet natured grandson, Lars-Erik. One night, Torsten comes to the chateau for a party, as does Gustav. Thinking that she has softened and changed her name to start a new life, Gustav does not reveal her true identity. The next day, while secretly trying to listen to a conversation between Torsten and Gustav, Anna leaves Lars-Erik too long under his sun lamp and her genuine distress makes Torsten suspicious of her resolve to kill the boy. He gives her an ultimatum that Lars-Erik must die before the next night, and she reluctantly agrees because she loves him. As Anna breaks down on the stand, Gustav is called to testify: He is suspicious of Anna after the sun lamp accident, especially after seeing her talking with Torsten at the nearby falls. As she then leads Lars-Erik to a basket ride across the falls, Gustav catches another basket and sees her save the child from falling into the water. Seeing Anna embrace Lars-Erik, Gustav realizes that she is not a murderer. Gustav admits to the prosecutor that he is in love with Anna, after which Emma Kristiansdotter, the consul's housekeeper, testifies that she later overheard Torsten and Anna talking: Torsten taunts her for having become soft and frightens her by talking of the power the consul's money will bring him. On the consul's birthday, just before a traditional sleigh ride, Anna gives him a portable chess board, which Emma says she put with the other gifts. Now the consul testifies: Anna and Gustav are to ride together with Lars-Erik, but Torsten races by with the boy in his sleigh. The others think he is racing with Gustav and Anna as they try desperately to save the frightened child. Anna confesses everything to Gustav and says that she now hates Torsten. When they reach the sleigh, Torsten won't stop until Anna takes out a gun and shoots him. They save the boy and Torsten's body slips into the falls. As the consul continues, Anna interrupts and says that he knows she is innocent because of the note she left in the chessboard. Now Emma comes forward and admits taking the letter, in which Anna warned the consul about his nephew and said that she was going to commit suicide. While the judges adjourn to consider the case, Vera tries to reconcile with Gustav, but he refuses and goes to Anna. They profess their love for each other and he proposes, after which the court attendant says that the judges are ready to give their decision, and suggest that Gustav might want to come along.