“Cinema should make you forget you are sitting in a theater.” – Director Roman Polanski
Hypnotic cinema when watched in the dark. Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (1965) is a masterpiece of psychological horror shot in peerless mood-altering black & white. It is essentially about a woman who cannot live on her own. Her sister vacations for ten days, and during that time the dwelling goes from unassuming apartment to house of horrors. Carol fears social encounters, especially with men. She is repulsed by touching, equating sex with rape (or perhaps she was an incest survivor?). She is afflicted by an inwards personality, drifts indifferently through her beauty shop job, and suffers from hallucinations.
Look at Carol and see that she is played by the unequaled beauty Catherine Deneuve (“The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” “Tristana”). Her chilly, disaffected performance is one of cinema’s best. Or perhaps it is just brilliant casting? Nobody suspects Carol as that abnormal because she is fortified by her own beauty. She has one major crush, Colin (John Fraser), a player who must interpret his rejected advances as a form of shyness. Does Colin pursue Carol because he’s intrigued in bringing out the beautiful woman tucked within the wallflower?
Carol’s sister is Helen (Yvonne Furneaux) who has auditory groan-and-moan sex in their apartment with a married man. You can dig deep to imagine Carol’s insights, but then again, aren’t her thought processes very basic? Carol fears that this man is going to leave his wife and consequently steal Helen away from her. As a start, he does take Helen away for extended holiday. What ensues over the course of alone time is a paralyzing breakdown of stability for Carol, demonstrating she is unable to care for herself, and worse, crumbles into hallucinations. Of course, real life comes knocking at her door. Her maladjusted response to male presence goes overboard, dramatically. There is also a rabbit that’s out of the fridge and rotting.
“Repulsion” continues to influence films generations later, never more strikingly than with the delirium motifs of “Black Swan” and most recently Rooney Mara’s character in “Side Effects” is a comparison of Carol. What we start with is a presentation of ordinary life, a slow tumble into personal breakdown, and peaks at a woman’s distorted interpretation of life around her. Polanski’s film is more than just a little troubling, it is disturbing. Polanski’s film is worth many insights into a damaged mind.
109 Minutes. NR, mature audiences only.
PSYCHOLOGICAL HORROR / MINDBENDER / LATE NIGHT THRILLS
Film Cousins: “Peeping Tom” (1960, Britain); “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968); “Black Swan” (2010); “Side Effects” (2013).