Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Cutting Edges: "Rosemary's Baby" (1968) Film Review

Fig 1: Film Poster

Rosemary’s Baby” (1968) is Polish director Roman Polanski’s very first American film, and is the second in line of his horror trilogy, next to “Repulsion” (1965) and “The Tenant” (1976). The movie is based on a novel published the year before, with the same name, by Ira Levin, which is about modern-day witches and demons.

Rosemary’s Baby” was released during an era were a number of social issues concerning women thrived, including the movement of mental health, pregnancy and pills during the 60’s and 70’s. 

Fig 2: Calm beginnings

The film is not rushed and travels smoothly; showing as much information the audience needs as well as keeping the audience tense and guessing what will happen next. Suspense is the main theme as well as fear, but there is a dose of comedy sprinkled in the in betweens. This perhaps adds the the twisted ending of the film.

 Classed mainly as a horror film, it’s not too scary. As Renata Adler states; “There are several false frights – a closet door opening ominously to reveal a vacuum cleaner[...] dropped objects in a dark cellar...” (Adler, 1968) 

Fig 3: The eccentric couple

The film tells of a newlywed couple in search for a new home, and become friendly with eccentric next door neighbours, Minnie and Roman (Fig 3). Rosemary (Fig 2) one night has a nightmare of being raped by a demon –type creature and see’s evil, red eyes, and awakes with scratches over body. She is shocked to discover that Guy (Fig 2) had intercourse with her while she was passed out.
The main event is when the couples friend, Hutch mysteriously dies and  leaves Rosemary a book about witchcraft . There is also a message: "The name is an anagram". Rosemary discovers after jumbling the words around that Roman Castevet is really “Steven Marcato” -  the son of a resident who was accused of being a Satanist. Rosemary then begins to suspect that her neighbors and Dr. Sapirstein are part of a cult with sinister ambitions for her baby, and that Guy is cooperating with them in secret, thus in  exchange for help in advancing his acting career.

Fig 4: The devils eyes

       In a cruel and twisted ending, all of the characters gather round the baby and cry “Hail Satan!” and Rosemary is told her baby is the spawn of Satan. Roman encourages her to rock the child, and in acceptance, Rosemary smiles to herself as she looks at her baby. Agreeing with Roger Ebert, “ How the story turns out, and who (or what Rosemary’s baby really is) hardly matters. The film doesn’t depend on a shock ending for its impact” (Roger Ebert, 1968).

This it’s easy to understand why: the film gradually forms an overwhelming sense of paranoia that: “Climaxes in a horrible final-scene revelation” (Biodrowski, 2008)

Fig 5: Rosemary

In a strange way, when Rosemary’s has her haircut, it is also like a signifier that the happy times are over and terrible events are about to occur. When she had longer hair, she was happier, in love and confident. As she gradually fell pregnant, she becomes more ill, nervous, scratches herself and is a shadow of her former self.

Her partner, Guy, can also be seen as patient manipulator – arguing with Rosemary but quickly apologising and getting around her, controlling her, and generally having a off-putting personality. This all adds to the gradual storytelling of “Rosemary’s Baby”.

Fig 6: "Hail Satan!"

Roman Polanski also knows how to pull at the strings of the audiences hearts: “When the conclusion comes, it works not because it is a surprise but because it is horrifyingly inevitable. Rosemary makes her dreadful discovery, and we are wrenched because we knew what was going to happen – and couldn’t help her.” (Ebert, 1968).

Some criticism can be made on the pacing of the film, however this seems to be Polanski’s distinctive directing skills, and one requires patience when watching “Rosemary’s Baby”. 


Adler, R. (1968) nytimes.com (Accessed on 08/03/2016) http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=EE05E7DF1738E271BC4B52DFB0668383679EDE 
Biodrowski, S. (2008) cinefantastiqueonline.com (Accessed on 08/03/2016) http://cinefantastiqueonline.com/2008/04/film-review-rosemarys-baby-1968/  
Ebert, R. (1968) rogerebert.com (Accessed on 08/03/2016) http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/rosemarys-baby-1968 
Unknown Author, (S.D) filmsite.org (Accessed on 08/03/2016) http://www.filmsite.org/rosem.html

Illustration List:

Fig 2: "Calm beginnings" (Accessed on 08/03/2016) https://thevelvetcafe.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/rosemary.jpg
Fig 5:  "Rosemary"(Accessed on 08/03/2016) https://vinnieh.files.wordpress.com/2015/11/rosemary-woodhouse.jpg

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