Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Space Oddities: Repulsion (1965) Film Review

Fig 1: Film poster

A film that depicts the hysteria and gradual mental disintegration of a shy Belgian girl, Roman Polanski’s “Repulsion” (1965) intelligently and uncomfortably displays the fine thread between reality and corrupted imagination.

Slowly paced, “Repulsion” (1965) presents a plot filled with shock, violence, sexual assault and the eerie mental absence of the main character, Carol (Catherine Deneuve, seen in Fig 2)

Genuinely uncomfortable to view at times; however this indeed shows Polanski doing his job as a director – he wants you to feel this way.

Fig 2: A blank stare

The feature straight away begins with a close up of an eye, with the credits rolling inside that immediately makes the viewer quite squeamish. 

   All seems well and normal near the beginning, but the audience can notice slight cracks appearing in Carol’s well-being (much like how later on, literal cracks in the floor and walls surround Carol herself) such as her empty stare and statue – like posture. Later, as her sister leaves for a short holiday, Carol is left home alone; not turning up to her job and shutting out all the people who care for her. As Elaine Macintyre explains, “Home is the last place Carol should be. Alone in the flat, her dippy absent-mindedness and strange sexual hang ups are given full rein.” (Macintyre, Date Unknown) her imagination runs wild – three rapes occur, and whilst they occur, the audience are presented with no sound but the relentless ticking of an alarm clock and what seems to be church bells. Polanski goes on to integrate more visual effects to display inner torment: Carol hears someone walking around in her home, her nail biting and ticks get worse and worse, a skinned rabbit is left to rot for days on end as well as some potatoes, cracks appear in the pavements and on the walls (see Fig 3), and hands grope her from the walls.
    After these tense and overwhelming events, Carol commits her first murder on Colin, her would be boyfriend. She batters him to death with a heavy candle holder, dumps his body in the bath (see Fig 4), and is visited by the landlord who tries to sexually assault her in real life. He is killed too by a razor, and once her sister returns, neighbours and friends are curios to see what is going on. Carol is hiding under the bed, looking completely mentally shattered, the dead bodies are discovered, and the film ends on an extreme close up of a photography of Carol as a child, much like how the movie started.

Fig 3: Cracks in the wall

Much like the film “Black Narcissus” by ­­­____ there is a sense of role reversal, such as the female lead becoming a violent killer and murdering men. In quite a disgusting way, the men are rendered submissive and helpless upon their coming deaths.

Polanski also devises a soundtrack that occasionally plays repetitive noises, such as clocks ticking, bells ringing and hearts thumping. This can signify the endless circle of thoughts that continuously go round and round carols head, despite her silence when communicating with others. 

Fig 4: Truly repulsing, Carols first murder

Another notable factor the the surroundings – the beginning of the film shows the apartment to be clean, tidy and modern, but by the end it is turned upside down, messy, filled with rotting food, dead bodies and splattered blood. The apartment can be seen as the inside of Carols mind that slowly becomes a mess. Much like Elaine Macintyre explains, “As Carol's mind disintegrates, the seedy, run down, claustrophobic apartment becomes the site of gothic horror” (Macintyre, Date Unknown)

Fig 5: Carol as a child; the films ending shot
The audience isn’t shown fully what has caused Carol to become like this. There is a strong connection to her fear of men and being sexually pleasured, however even though this is not known, the audience have definitely experienced what it’s like to be her.

After the films end, the audience will also stare blankly as to what they have witnessed. The mark of Carol's madness lives on after the end, and will not be forgotten so quickly, and Polanski makes sure of that. All in all, truly a film not to be missed. 


A, G. (Date Unknown) Time Out, (Accessed on 17/11/2015) http://www.timeout.com/london/film/repulsion
Bradshaw, P. (2013) The Guardian, (Accessed on 17/11/2015) http://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/jan/03/repulsion-review
Macintyre, E. (Date Unknown) ElaineMacintyre.net (Accessed on 17/11/2015) http://www.elainemacintyre.net/film_reviews/repulsion.php

Illustration List: 

Fig 1: "Film Poster" (Accessed on 17/11/2015) https://www.movieposter.com/posters/archive/main/61/MPW-30800
Fig 3: "Cracks in the wall) (Accessed on 17/11/2015) https://tinribs27.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/repulsion6.png
Fig 4: "Truly repulsing, Carol commits her first murder" (Accessed on 17/11/2015) http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/repulsion/repulsion_shot7l.jpg
Fig 5:  "Carol as a child; the films ending shot" (Accessed on 17/11/2015) https://stradeperdute.files.wordpress.com/2008/08/n65.jpg

1 comment:

  1. Very insightful review Manisha :)

    Just a couple of points; if you do not know the date of a quote or reference, you should put s.d. which stands for 'sine die', or 'no date'.
    You seem to have forgotten to put in the name of the maker of 'Black Narcissus' - there is a gap, so I am assuming you meant to and just forgot :)