Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Film Review: Replusion

Fig 1: Poster of Repulsion which features the main character Carol, played by Catherine Deneuve

"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." (Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader)

Fearing anything can make a person feel trapped in a cracked existence, especially if it is a fear relating to sex as show in the 1965 film Repulsion directed by Roman Polanski and art directed by Seamus Flannery. A central part of the film is the apartment the French main character, Carol, lives in along with her older sister, Helen. It serves as a representation of her mind as she slowly begins to break down over, starting with walls cracking to male, hairy hands bursting out of the soft fleshy walls of the hallway. The way Carol and the apartment change during the film, through visuals, sound and of odd camera tricks, makes the viewer connect with her in the worst way possible, it gets under your skin, it's unnerving to the point where you feel the same way she is. No gore or sexual act is directly shown through out the film, there are only mentions of dead bodies are through characters reactions, making it much more scary then just having the body on display to the camera. It makes it seem as the the body was too gruesome, too disturbing and too disgusting to be shown. Same with the sex scenes, the first implication of sex is between Helen and her boyfriend, Michael, is of the erotic noises that is heard through the walls of Carol's bedroom as she tries to sleep, resorting to throwing her head under a pillow in an attempt to muffle out the sounds. The hallucinations of Carol's attacker are also obscured, with no sound and the camera focus in of the two bodies as they move together, flesh on flesh without showing the characters faces, the ways that these shots are filmed connotes the disturbing and unnatural nature of unwanted sex. Carol, being physically and mentally repulsed by men and especially being intimate with men is what drives the film.

Fig 2: Movie cap of one of the many times in the film where Carol travels from her work to her apartment
Carol, a French beautician working in London, she lives her life in a daze, not paying attention to clients at work, wandering home not aware of her surroundings. A man, Colin, flirts with her, trying to get her to go on a date with him, but she continues to reject him. Upon returning home, she sees that Helen, her older sister, is preparing rabbit for her boyfriend, Michael. Helen mentions, as she puts the cooked body of rabbit in the fridge that she will be going on holiday to Rome with Michael. Carol comments on a crack in the kitchen go unnoticed by her sister as her boyfriend enters and they discuss the trip, leaving the rabbit out on the side as Michael returns to his wife. The following day Carol attempts to sleep through the Helen's moans as she and her boyfriend have sex in the next room. The day of the Rome trip arrives and Helen leaves Carol to look after the apartment and to give their rent money to the landlord. She takes out the rabbit from the fridge and places it on the telephone table in the living room, then leaves for work. Carol's health continues to deteriorate over the coming days, at work she acts sluggish and day dreams much more often, which concerns her manager and other co-workers. After spending 3 day away from work, Carol returns to the Beauty Parlour, she is confronted by her manager who is concerned about her behaviour after she accidentally rips a customers fingernail. She is asked to go home, an as she gets changed while talking about the cinema with a co-worker, as Carol pulls up her bag, her fellow employee is shocked and horrified at the sight of the decayed severed rabbit head inside.
Carol stays inside the apartment from then on, her hallucinations grow stronger as she fantasised an sexual attack on her by a mysterious assailant. The food left out on the side rots away as she laying around an apartment that seems like it is changing all around her, with the walls getting soft and damp, cracks start emerging more predominantly.
After purposely missing calls from Colin, who calls out of his concern for her. He arrives at the apartment, banging on the door. Carol, who starts to panic, starts pacing around the hallway, and grabs a candlestick before Colin barges in the door. He tries to calm her down, to understand why she didn't reply to him. When he has his back turned however, Carol strike him on the back of the head, killing him instantly. When the sense of panic subsides, she drags his body into the bathroom, and into the overflown bath, locking the door behind her.
She gets continuously worse after the murder, more dazed and out of it, she wakes up on the floor, and pulls out the telephone after receiving a vicious call. She receives a postcard from her sister in Italy mentioning if she's paid the rent yet. The Landlord knocks on the door, trying to use his master key to gain assess before realising that the door is open, just barricaded a wooden plank Carol put there. Upon entering, he notices how unkept everything inside is, commenting on Carol's night gown and about the headless rotten rabbit on the table in the living room where the unplugged telephone used to be situated. He makes Carol sit down while he goes to give her a glass of water. The Landlord comments on the family photo residing on the side before he begins to get to close for comfort with the woman, saying that if she gave him what he wanted that she could forget about the rent money. He gets sexually aggressive with Carol, grabby her and forcefully kissing her, before Carol uses Michael's razor to stab at him until he dies on the sofa. Carol flips the sofa, with the body over and falls asleep on the armchair just 2 metres away from the murder. When she wakes up, she irons her night gown with an unplugged iron and puts on some lipstick before going to bed. She lies wide awake, smiling to herself before being attacked, again by a mysterious molester. Her lipstick wipes off against the bedsheets and the lamp falls as she struggles against the male figure.
The following day she scribbles on the window before exploring the apartment for the last time. As she enters the hallway, she is grabbed and groped by numerous male hands as she tries to progress to her room, upon arriving there she watches as the ceiling seems like it is caving in on top of her.
the scene cuts to Helen and Michael arriving back from their trip. Immediately they realise that something is wrong and their see the dead bodies in the bath and in the living room. Helen starts to panic, as Michael calls for help. Neighbours come in to see whats wrong and witness a catatonic Carol lying under the bed. Michael picks her up and takes her outside despite the arguments the neighbours make about leaving her where she is. The film ends with a slow zoom in onto the family photo, focusing on a young Carol staring off into the distance.

Fig 3: Movie cap a scene towards the end of the film showing outstretched hands piercing through the hallway walls as Carol's mind becomes completely unstable
The film centres around Carol's disgust at the male sex, and of sexual aggression. The men she sees throughout the film threaten her sense of self even if, in reality, they are a kind and caring man like Colin. Containing many mentions of decay and sex, Repulsion is a movie of the decaying mind of a young lady who was exposed to a constant threat of male intimacy. Male company is forced upon her through out, whether or not that company is bad or good. "She always sees men as a threat, and eventually takes a knife to the guilty – her bullying landlord – and innocent – her nice would-be boyfriend – alike." (Kim Newman, Empire Online)
The apartment also changes as the film goes on, starting off as just an ordinary flat, as the film goes on and Carol's mentality declines the apartment starts to change, become more waterlogged, damp and organic. Cracks appear on the walls, getting deep and more severe, towards the end of the film in the hallway the walls are soft and malleable as masculine hands burst through in a seemingly sexual manner. As well as this, in scenes where Carol wanders around the apartment the camera is zoomed out from her and has a strange fish-bowl effect which makes the rooms she travel too look huge and vast. All of these events that happen to the apartment are a direct and visual way of showing how Carol's mindset has changed for the worse "Distortions in the rooms of the apartment tacitly reveal her mental state. Phantom arms that punch through the walls and seize her visualize her nightmare insanity. And with sound, too, Mr. Polanski weaves a fabric of tremendous effects." (Bosley Crowther, The New York Times)


Jonathan Rosenbaum-

Kim Newman-

Bosley Crowther-

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