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The allure of masks

Masks have a long history in many different cultures, but they universally serve the same purpose – to transform the identity of one into another. What I mean by this is that the act of wearing a mask is used to "mask" a person’s real identity and allow them to adopt, even if only momentarily, that of another. Examples of this range from simple anonymity where the wearer wishes to hide their identity for a later reveal, to those used in theatre such as Kabuki masks were the mask represents a particular character identity, to the use in ancient ceremonies where the mask is used to symbolise the gods’ presence in the ceremony.

As such masks have already been used for centuries in theatre, and are considered a fairly standard aspect of performance art, but this does not diminish the power and symbolism they represent when used well. Many films have seized on the use of masks, either as a central plot device, such as in Jim Carey 1994 film ‘The Mask’, while others have used it as an aspect of the film, such as in 1999 film ‘Eyes Wide Shut.’ I think it might make an interesting topic to examine different uses and interpretations of the mask in various films, perhaps even tying them back to their cultural or social heritage.