Saturday, 26 November 2016

Repulsion - Film Review

Repulsion Film Review

fig.1 Film poster 

Directed by Roman Polanski, ‘Repulsion’ is a 1965 British horror film that follows a virgin who is afraid of contact with the opposite sex. Regarded as “one of Roman Polanski's most brilliant films” (Bradshaw, 2013), ‘Repulsion’ has a blend of both disturbing story writing and notable camera work. Being the first of the three films from Polanski’s “Apartment Trilogy” (with the other two being ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ (1968) and ‘The Tenant’ (1976),) the majority of the film takes place in an apartment building which is utilised by Polanski to create effective scenes.

The story features a young woman, Carol Ledoux, who is living with her sister during the 60s. Afraid of intimacy Carol’s state of mind begins to deteriorate as her anchor, the sister leaves to go on holiday. Eventually this leads to a spiral of madness ending with the killing of two men and Carol being left in a catatonic state.

Firstly focusing on the protagonist herself Carol, who is played by Catherine Deneuve, is placed in an odd situation. The main character could be described as a sexually appealing woman as she attracts the gaze of men around her however for the protagonist, who has extreme androphobia this acts as a curse. As a result this creates a rather empathic character who is struggling to deal men during a time of sexual uprising. It is thanks to both actor and director that the audience is drawn to Carol’s side despite the horrific actions that are committed by the character. It is difficult to decide whether or not Carol truly is the protagonist towards the end of the film.  

Observing the character in context it appears that Carol was destined to fail, signified from the start she is an outsider or foreigner. This can be accepted in both ability to function within society and terms of family origins. In relation to Polanski he himself is an outsider coming in from a foreign country. It can be implied that Polanski portrays some of his own feelings into this character.

Polanski uses a mix of several different devices to being out Carol’s insanity making it clear for the audience to understand in a visual manor. One of the signs that appears is the twisted perception of the rooms giving a sense of unease that can be attributed to the camera work as the once familiar bathroom becomes cold and strange. Polanski continues to add rather unnerving scenes including that of violent delusions showing Carol being raped. What makes these scenes particularly effective is the sound design. Rather than using the sounds of struggle all noise is exempt apart from the lone ticking of a clock. Portrayed in near silence the audience has only the disturbing imagery to focus on. In the background the ticking adds tension forcing the viewers to count every second. Strange imagery continues to appear with bizarre organic walls, dark figures appearing in mirrors, hands bursting out from the wall and groping carol and large cracks forming in the walls. All signs indicating the breakdown of Carol’s psyche.

fig.2 Cracks forming in the wall

Adding to the sense of fall from reality and lack of rational thinking is the devices used by Polanski to hint towards the passing of time. “Polanski also dresses the film with pertinent details that further exemplify both Carol’s madness and the aching passage of time: Potatoes sprout in the kitchen, meat (rabbit meat, no less) rots on a plate and eventually collects flies” (Morgan, 2011), with the audience subtly hinted towards the passing of time one begins to wonder how much has truly pasted leaving feelings of doubt and insecurity.

While effective as a psychological horror film, Polanski has also highlighted the uncertain nature of psychological illnesses. Created during the 70s, schizophrenia had yet to be understood despite this ‘Repulsion’ gives an accurate depiction of the illness for the time. The penultimate scene that is shown acts as a metaphor regarding the lack of knowledge or inability to appropriately deal with schizophrenic patients. Ultimately Polanski leaves the audience with an unnerving feeling, misplaced feelings for a violent character and insight into a psychologically disturbed mind.

Illustration list

fig.1, website (accessed 26/11/16)
fig.2, website (accessed 26/11/16)


Bradshaw, Peter (2013) Repulsion - Review (accessed 26/11/16)
Morgan, Kim (2011) Roman Polanski Understands Women: Repulsion (accessed 26/11/16)

1 comment:

  1. Interesting review Alex :)
    Just be careful that what you have written, actually says what you think it does - here for example, it is a bit garbled;
    'Polanski uses a mix of several different devices to being out Carol’s insanity making it clear for the audience to understand in a visual manor'
    Be wary of spellcheckers too, as they may not pick up on some words - 'manor' as in 'big house' and 'manner' as in 'a way in which a thing is done or happens'