Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Film Review: Repulsion (1965)

Fig.1. Movie Poster (1965)
This black and white horror film set at the time it was made is the first instalment of Roman Polanski's "Apartment Trilogy" and stars Christine Deneuve as the troubled Carol. Living with her sister in Kensington the shy, beautiful young Belgian girl tries to go about her daily life but is harbouring an apparent repulsion to men. This isn't helped by unwanted attention on her journey to and from work every day (Fig.2). When her sister and married boyfriend go away to Italy, Carol is left alone in the apartment and gradually her mind overtakes her.
Fig.2 Carol receive unwanted attention from labourers, Movie Still (1965)
There is much disturbing imagery in this movie and although some points are quite slow, this is a deliberate act by Polanski to engage us further into the mind of Carol. She suffers hallucinations of cracks appearing in the walls, reflecting her increasingly fractured mind, and rape experiences every night, to which she becomes so familiar that she prepares herself for them towards the end of the movie. Throughout the film, those around her do not seem to acknowledge Carol's mental state enough to take action and the audience is left with a sense of not fear, but sadness towards her. Kim Newman says in her Empire Online review "Rather than making a mad person scary, this film terrifies by giving an audience a sense of what it's like to lose sanity." (Newman, s.d.)
Fig. 3 Carol sees cracks appearing in the walls, Movie Still (1965)

Considering the movie is set in the Sixties, we can see that Carol is very unlike many of the other women around her. She keeps herself away from men as much as possible and washes herself after any contact with them, including Colin, the kind-hearted man who is trying to win her affections. Eye For Film reviewer Jennie Kermode says "Her unbalanced state seems to reflect an unbalanced world whose expectations of her are themselves far from realistic." (Kermode, 2010). We are given the impression that Carol has suffered some form of abuse or neglect in her life, possibly from her father or someone close to her, most definitely a male. This is even more evident when we are shown a family photo in the film of Carol as a young girl, looking distant and removed from the scene. (Figs. 4 & 5).  

 Fig 4. Carol's family photo, Movie Still (1965)
 Fig.5 Close up of Carol from the family photo, Movie Still (1965)

This film is successful for many reasons; the sound design, the set design and the way the rooms get bigger as Carol's insanity grows, and also the clever timing of the film. Remembered as a classic psychological thriller, Repulsion received a rare 100% from Rotten Tomatoes film review website and is described by Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian as "a deeply disturbing, horribly convincing psychological thriller that is also that rarest of things: a scary movie in which a woman is permitted to do the killing." (Bradshaw, 2013).
Illustration List:
Figure 1. Repulsion, (1965) [Poster] At: http://pics.filmaffinity.com/Repulsion-581209058-large.jpg
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Figure 2.  Carol receive unwanted attention from labourers (1965) [Movie Still] At: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/--MTLTrTKlbk/UeGfcUpc53I/AAAAAAAAiA4/LuEfqTT3SO0/s1600/Repulsion+2.png
(Accessed on 18.11.14)
Figure 3. Carol sees cracks appearing in the walls (1965) [Movie Still] At: http://lefthandhorror.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/repulsion6.png?w=800 
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Figure 5. Close up of Carol from the family photo (1965) [Movie Still] At:  http://media.jinni.com/movie/repulsion/repulsion-1.jpeg
(Accessed on 18.11.14)

Newman, K (s.d.) Empire Online review At: http://www.empireonline.com/reviews/reviewcomplete.asp?FID=134914
(Accessed on 18.11.14)

Kermode, J (2010) Eye for Film review At:
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Bradshaw, P (2013) The Guardian review At: http://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/jan/03/repulsion-review
(Accessed on 18.11.14)