Written & Directed by Roman Polanski – Ira Levin (novel)
Starring: Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, and Ruth Gordon
A young couple moves into a new apartment, only to be surrounded by peculiar neighbors and occurrences. When the wife becomes mysteriously pregnant, paranoia over the safety of her unborn child begins controlling her life.
Believe it or not, I thought this was a boring horror movie back in the day. It’s strange how time alters perception isn’t it? Roman Polanski paints a desperate picture of growing fear and conspiracy with sheer perfection. There isn’t a wasted frame in this film – everything serves the greater purpose. Regardless of your opinion of Mr. Polanski, this film is phenomenal; this director drops his ego for the sake of his films. It’s sad that so many contemporary writers and directors can’t. If you haven’t had the pleasure of viewing this film – please do. Since it’s nearly 44 years after the release – consider this to contain spoilers.
Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse (Cassavetes, Farrow) are upscale New Yorkers moving into a lush apartment building. Farrow is the star of the show as the cherubic-faced Rosemary. She’s so apt at her role that we start to see our own hopes and fears appear in her innocent demeanor. Her husband, Guy, is an up and coming actor with a little street cred under his belt. Did anyone else wonder how this new actor even affords this massive new home? It becomes abundantly clear when all is said and done, which makes me wonder what the true moral of the story is. Personally, I think it’s a message that people will do anything to get ahead in life. Sometimes something so desirous can only be attained through true acts of evil.
Surrounded by colorful neighbors and old-money Bohemians, the viewer is forced to pay attention to every word, every frame, every hidden or obvious motivation in this film. Ruth Gordon as the annoying but seemingly innocent neighbor, Minnie Castevet, truly deserved the Oscar this performance netted her. Rosemary obviously becomes pregnant and that’s where the viewer is forced to endure the same trauma as our nubile protagonist. The eerie dream sequences Polanski uses to capture her victimization is nothing short of fucking brilliant. Brilliant. Is Rosemary being drugged? Are these dreams or something more sinister? You know what to expect from a horror film that gravitates towards Satanism, but nonetheless, this film will make you think – and often times about things you would prefer not.
It’s tough as a fan of films and horror to accurately tell you what makes Rosemary’s Baby work so remarkably well; I think it’s a combination.
- Polanski knows how to get every ounce of skill from his talent, the characters are almost laughable at times, yet decidedly evil in their intent.
- The sets are extravagant and he makes great use of the reoccurring red theme. Call me crazy, but there’s a scene in the kitchen involving cookies and a very clear outline of a pentagram is purposely visible to the attentive viewer.
- Source material. I’ve never read the novel from Ira Levin, but everything suggests that Polanski excises the growing suspense with a surgeon’s skill.
- The brooding supernatural factor. Was it a dream that you were raped by Satan? The claw marks on Farrow’s back suggest otherwise.
In the end, a coven of Satanists successfully conspire to have a child born of Satan. I can’t think of many scenes creepier than Rosemary standing over the black crib, complete with a mobile made of an upside down cross. Finally defeated, she looks at her child with a mother’s love muted by frightened hesitancy. The only thing worse than Rosemary’s beaten down and nearly complicit psyche is Guy’s guilty and cowardly deed that set this in motion. Hall of Fame for certain.