Sunday, 23 November 2014

Roman Polanski's Repulsion (1965) Film Review

 Fig. 1. Repulsion poster.

Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (1965) is a disturbing psychological horror film that is filled with uncomfortable scenes. The narrative can be quite confusing at times as you aren’t always sure if the scene you are watching is reality or just a nightmare.

Fig. 2. Ending still

Throughout the film there are some seriously disturbing scenes that are difficult to watch. There are a few scenes, in which Carol the main character is raped, As Jenkins states in his review ‘A church bell handily rings whenever Carol's virginal sanctity is being invaded’ (Jenkins, 2013). Jenkins points out that before these horrible scenes of rape occur, a church bell rings. You start to link the scenes of sexual attack with the sound of the church bell. It’s possible that Polanski wanted to create that link for the ending, in which it slowly zooms into a family picture that only has Carol and what appears to be her father visible, the church bell rings violently. This suggests that Carol’s father sexual assaulted her and could be the reason behind her fear of men and sex.

Polanski’s use of sound is chilling and in some cases the use of little to no sound is even more effective. As Rosenbaum points out in his review ‘Roman Polanski's first film in English (1965) is still his scariest and most disturbing—not only for its evocations of sexual panic, but also because his masterful employment of sound puts the audience's imagination to work in numerous ways.’ (Rosenbaum, 2007). Rosenbaum reinforces the point that Polanski’s use of sound is well thought out, he also suggest that Polanski’s use of sound lets the audience’s imagination do a lot of the work. This links back in to the use of the church bell being sounded every time Carol is about to be sexual attack, it also becomes even more sinister when Polanski cuts the sound from the actual attack scenes. This leaves the viewer feeling extremely uncomfortable; the only sound that remains during this time is the sound of clock ticking; Polanski may have used the sound of clock ticking to intensify the terrifying act.

 Fig. 3. Crack still

As the film progresses you see Carol’s mental state take a turn for the worst, as hysteria starts to fall in place. Polanski symbolises this very well with the use of props and scenes of the wall cracking, as Kendrick states in his review ‘As time moves forward, marked by both growth (a pile of sprouting potatoes on the kitchen counter) and decay (a skinned rabbit slowly rotting on the table), those cracks start getting larger, and the strange sounds develop into a cacophony of what sounds like distorted human screaming.’ (Kendrick, 2009). Kendrick points out that Polanski used the potatoes growth and the rabbits decay as a symbol for Carol’s mental health. It is possible that the cracks in the wall may have symbolised other meanings as well, as they start getting worse when Carol’s sister leaves to go on holiday. This could mean that they also symbolise the divide between Carol and her sister (the only person who keeps her sane). The longer her sister is absent the larger the cracks get, this however could still only derive from her mental state becoming more and more unstable.

Overall Repulsion is a chilling film that will leave you haunted from the hysterical view of a sexual scared individual, with scenes of sexual assault and mental break downs which is reflected by the environment.  It is most certainly a great psychological horror film that will most definitely create an ever lasting impression.

Illustration List
Polanski, R. (1965). Figure 1. Repulsion poster. (Accessed on 23/11/14)
Polanski, R. (1965). Figure 2. Ending still. (Accessed on 23/11/14)
Polanski, R. (1965). Figure 3. Crack still. (Accessed on 23/11/14)

Jenkins, D. (2013). (Accessed on 23/11/14)
Kendrick, J. (2009). (Accessed on 23/11/14)
Rosenbaum, J. (2007). (Accessed on 23/11/14)