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Saturday, 11 December 2010

Film Review - Repulsion 1964

Fig.1 Repulsion Film Poster

Roman Polanski’s film Repulsion (1964) was his first English language film. It was created in the new horror sub genre which had been created by the film Psycho which takes a different approach to terror. “Polanski’s burgeoning fascination with apartments” (Meyncke, 2009) is seen in Repulsion as well as two other films of Polansk’s there is Rosemary’s Baby and The Tenant. Each film explorers an apartments space in different ways.  With each portraying the loneliness of the apartment and the relationship's with the neighbours differently.
Fig.2 Repulsion Film Still

Repulsion shows  Carole Ledoux who is a disturbed young women working in a salon in London. When we first meet Carole she is living with her sister Helene in the apartment they share. Carole is isolated, withdrawn and barely holding onto her sanity. What is exactly wrong with Carole that is not specific explained but we could guess that it is something of a sexual nature and the apparent terror of men. Carole resents her sister for having an affair with a married man (Michael). With the resentment she holds towards her sister and her own neuroses about sex triggers something inside of her. When Helene and Michael go away to Italy, Carole is left alone in the apartment. She starts to have these hallucinations as well as somehow ending up trapped and isolated in a world of her imagination.

Fig.3 Repulsion Film Still

When Colin a young man who has fallen in love with Carole appears at her apartment looking for her worried that she has not answered his many phone calls. His anxious behavior towards her triggers something inside of her and she repeatedly hits him over the head until he is dead. When the landlord appears demanding rent he forces himself on her and gets more than he bargains for.  We see and feel her rising horror and disgust when she finally lets rip and stabs him to death with a razor.

Repulsion is one of cinema’s finest films that show how to portray madness on to the big screen and make the viewer actually believe it as well. “Through a brilliant manipulation of space, time, and sound, Polanski vividly recreates a schizophrenic experience.” (Hutchings, 2010) This approach is seen visual in the scenes in Carole’s flat.  When Carole slowly starts to lose her sanity the apartment appearance itself changes. The walls of the apartment begin to crack and the rooms what were initially small become massive. This is seen when Carole is standing in the room with her back to the camera just starting at the landlord underneath the sofa who she just killed. What you notice in this scene is that the apartment is now much bigger than before and Carole herself looks much smaller standing within it. The film offers us an experience of madness rather than an understanding of what is happening.

Fig.4 Repulsion Film Still

Polanski denies us any satisfaction of any revelation regarding why Carole’s mental stability is unhinged. At the end we are just left with the camera focusing on photography of Carole as a young girl just starring at her farther. Which suggest that her madness comes from something that happened to her in her childhood. Perhaps buried forever never to be fully explained. The photo can be interpreted as evidence that Carole was sexually abused by her father at a young age. This explains why her behaviour towards men is cold and distant. Polanski has denied this in interviews, stating that “he merely wanted to show that Carol had been disturbed from a very early age, without offering an exact explanation” (Blodrowski, 2009)

Fig.5 Repulsion Film Still

We never find out why Carol is the way she is and certainly by the end of the film we know what it feels like to be her.  The camera is used to shows her emotions with long and slow shots. Which follow her eye line when something horrible is happening allowing the experience of what she is going through.  But throughout the film there are several shots that have you jumping especially when the walls crack unexpectedly.  

Polanski's Repulsion shows us how to give the audience a sense of what it is like to lose your sanity.

List of Illustrations
Figure 2 - Repulsion (1964) Repulsion Film Poster. (Accessed on 11/10/2010)
Figure 3 - Repulsion (1964) Repulsion Film Poster. (Accessed on 11/10/2010)
Figure 4- Repulsion (1964) Repulsion Film Poster. (Accessed on 11/10/2010)
Figure 5 - Repulsion (1964) Repulsion Film Poster. (Accessed on 11/10/2010)

Meyncke, Amanda Mae. (2009) DVD Review: Repulsion is Anything but Repulsive -- Criterion Collection. (Accessed on 09/12/2010)
Biodrowski, Steve. (2009) Repulsion (1965) – Horror Film Review. (Accessed on 09/12/2010)

1 comment:

  1. Nice review, Sasha - and all the Harvard/bibliography stuff is present and correct - excellent! :D Just watch your spelling and typos etc. I know it's really, really, really boring of me to pick you up on it, but other people will as well...

    so, for instance...

    'Each film explorers a apartments space in different ways.'

    should read:

    Each film explores an apartment's space in different ways.