Written & Directed by Roman Polanski
Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Ian Hendry, and John Fraser
Left alone when her sister goes on vacation, a young beauty finds herself besieged on all sides by the demons of her past.
1965? Yes, there will be spoilers.
Yeah, I just saw this for the first time. I’ll turn in my Serious Film Lover Card on my way out. It’s impossible to avoid something rated as a 10/10 from every other movie blogger in the world. Alas, my wife and I sat down and slugged our way through this classic. Repulsion is the English language debut for both Polanski and the stunning French actress, Catherine Deneuve. Once I got past the shock of having to process the protagonist portraying the antagonist as well, I made some progress. I was indifferent to poor, Carol (Deneuve) in the first act (my wife hated her guts), but slowly became less apathetic towards her character for the remainder of the film. Deneuve pulls the strings Polanski instructed her to pull and she’s brilliant at it. My personal feelings aside, she does nothing less of a remarkable job as did Polanski and everyone involved in this tense, psychological horror film.
Carol lives with her sister, Helen (Yvonne Furneaux), and works as a beautician at a large and ritzy salon. She seems normal enough, her quirky personality (or lack of) notwithstanding. Her sister’s boyfriend, an adulterous husband, pings both Carol and the viewer’s radar from the onset. She clearly doesn’t like the man for some reason or another. Maybe she just hates the immoral, maybe she’s protecting her sister’s best interests – we soon find out. As Carol goes about her daily life, we start to see the cracks in her psyche, presented to the viewers as her actual walls cracking and splitting inside her apartment. Helen leaves Carol alone for the weekend while she accompanies her adulterer on a trip – it’s here that we begin to see her patterns and instability bubble to the surface. You’ll spend a good portion of this film asking yourself WTF? until it finally falls into place, so don’t think you’re alone.
Carol exhibits increasingly bizarre behavior towards men in general, and of course Polanski has a grand reason as to why. Presented in black and white, this film plunges us to the bottom of the human condition, focusing on the aftermath of early childhood trauma. If you’re guessing this film explores the sexually abusive past of Carol, you’re on the right track. It’s just a matter of who and why at this point for most viewers. Carol is already in the deep end of the pool when she kills the repugnant landlord trying to collect his rent…in whatever manner he can. Things don’t go well for Mr. Landlord or Carol in the aftermath. Repulsion spells it out in the title before you even begin watching. Filled with traumatic hallucinations and dark implications, Repulsion is one of the most effective films I’ve ever seen. Both actor and director deliver a disturbing account of the beastly nature of men. The film becomes so unbearably uncomfortable at one point that it became hard to watch. The camera slowly zooms in on an old family picture of Carol’s family. Some people claim the blank gaze on young Carol’s mind is focused on her father, others, like me, think she is blankly staring into the emotional abyss that has suffocated her life. Like it or hate it, Polanski is a fucking genius, and that’s not up for debate in this review. Pick this up when you can, be prepared to throw the curtains back and let some light in when you’re done. Repulsion adheres tightly to its title.