The Films Of Roman Polanski: Repulsion (#2)

Polanski’s second film, Repulsion, is his first foray into the horror genre and is the initial movie in his praised Apartment Trilogy (Repulsion, Rosemary’s Baby, The Tenant).  It also establishes the home invasion theme that Polanski would revisit countless times in his career.  The film continues the use of claustrophobia against the protagonist that Polanski established so brilliantly in his first film, Knife In The Water.  This time however, it takes it to a whole new extreme.  The delicate touches he used in Knife In The Water are quickly replaced with violent brush strokes of paranoia and schizophrenia.

Catherine Deneuve is Carole, a shy and introverted young woman who’s beauty inspires repetitive advances by men that she wants nothing to do with.  She is awkward and inexperienced in the dating world and her curiosity is by far overshadowed by her fear.  All day at her beauty parlor job she is told by clients and coworkers how cruel and heartless men can be.  When her older sister leaves her alone in the apartment for a week, to travel to Italy with her married boyfriend, Carole quickly looses her grasp on reality and spirals into a nightmare world filled with fantasies of sexual advances and rape.

Unlike Polanski’s first film, Repulsion does feel slightly dated.  The special effects in the film are no match for today’s standards, but still function to the films surreal nature.  In the acting department, Deneuve’s physical performance is brilliant.  She only stumbles when she has to speak, as it was her first English speaking role.  Thankfully, there is very little dialog in the film so this is hardly an issue.

Repulsion might be the best of Polanski’s pre-U.S. films.  The world which Polanski has crafted inside the small apartment feels alive and dangerous, something many other directors have attempted to do with much less success.

Even with its minor flaws Repulsion is an extremely disturbing film that packs a few genuine scares and a handful of images that are not easily forgotten.  One of such images is the final shot of the film which may give us a clue into Carole’s character that we know very little about.

This is a slow moving character study of someone losing their mind, it’s not plot driven and definitely does not give people all the answers.  In fact, even when the the film ends, everything, including Carole, is still shrouded in mystery.


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Categories: Roman Polanski

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