Todd reviews a classic British psychological thriller from Roman Polanski.
Roman Polanski is an incredible filmmaker. Generally speaking, his are not “friends and popcorn” films, but better experienced one-on-one in a single quiet, introspective session.
Repulsion is the first in his so-named “apartment trilogy,” followed by Rosemary’s Baby and The Tenant. What does this guy have against apartment life? Who else has made it so unappealing? With each of these films, Polanski proves himself a master of psychological horror, starting with this low-budget black and white film from 1965 I decided to watch last night.
Carol lives with her sister in an apartment in London. As a stunning blonde Belgian employed at a beauty parlor, she’s a head-turning fish out of water and thus an easy target for the men endlessly casting their nets in her direction.
Yet all anyone finds is a distracted, almost mute woman. Who stands a chance at breaking through her walls before she spirals into madness?
If you ever wanted to know what depression feels like, this film pulls you inside that mindset like a hypnotist. Then when you’re as good and vulnerable as our poor protagonist, it barrages you with surreal images and shocks to damage your psyche for good measure.
Polanski adds layers upon layers, perhaps a bit too thick at times, of sexual imagery - both subtle and overt - when he’s not focusing his lens directly on good old-fashioned misogynism. His camera borrows heavily from Hitchcock, moving methodically and slowly, imbuing every shot an increasing oppressive claustrophobia.
Many of the scenes with dialogue are long with few cuts, just like Rope. Just like life.
But it ain't just images neither. Dialogue becomes sparse as time marches forward, and he fills that emptiness with noises that sneak through thin apartment walls, maddeningly repetitive sounds of clocks ticking, and arresting jolts of ringing bells and sudden musical cues. It's downright punishing.
From the feminist perspective, Polanski is well ahead of his time. As a male viewer, this movie hurt all the way through, down to the final chilling shot - a slow tracking shot that ends with a single image that flings opens the doors on what you’ve been experiencing the last two hours. I literally felt chills.
I must also mention Catherine Deneuve's incredible performance. There you go. She pulls you inside her character, which is not an easy feat.
The last film that made me feel like I needed to take a shower afterwards was 8mm. Repulsion works on a much more sophisticated level, but I still felt so dirty and abused that I prescribed myself a double helping of How I Met Your Mother to burn the nasties away.