Friday, 28 November 2014

Film Review - Repulsion (1965)

Fig. 1 Repulsion (1965) Movie Poster

Roman Polanski's Repulsion (1965) is quite a disturbing film that demonstrates Carole's, played by Catherine Deneuve, phobia of men, and although she attempts to live her normal life, working at a beauty salon, it is very clear that not all is as it seems with Carole - Mystery surrounds her. It's complex story asks a few questions as to why this phobia exists and why the apartment that she appears to be imprisoned in begins to haunt her. Variety magasine calls the film "a classy, truly horrific psychological drama" - (Variety, 1964)

Fig. 2 Carole

Carole is a beautiful, young Belgian woman living in the heart of London. Surrounded by men and the busy streets of the 1960s. It is an impossibility for her to escape her fears and so must confront them, even though it's a big struggle to do so. Elaine Macintyre went as far as to call Carole " a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown" - (Macintyre, 2014) Due to Carole's beauty, there is no shortage of admirers for her, whether it's the cliche idea of builders admiring a young woman or a possible love interest of Colin, played by John Fraser (See Fig. 4). Despite Colin's clear admiration for her, she does not display any signs of trust towards and appears scared by his presence. Carole's fear, unfortunately, haunts her even at home as her sister Helen's, played by Yvonne Furneaux, screams of sex run through the building and so prevent Carole from getting some sleep. Carole is working within the beauty industry and so is surrounded by the idea of the beautiful woman, which consequently creates more of a challenge for her as it would lead to more male admiration. 

Fig.3 Carole walking through Corridor of hands

When Carole has to take care of the apartment, strange occurrences begin to happen. Walls start to crack. Shelves fall off the wall. Hands burst through the walls (See Fig. 3). We have no clear understanding as to why this is going on. Is it real? Is it a dream? These scenes create confusion within our mind and we have no clue as to what could be causing it. It is clear that the building is causing Carole stress and so the presence of the landlord and Colin do not lead to an improvement in Carole's attitude and behaviour. 

For the time, the scenes of the building breaking and collapsing would be very hard to perfect, but through Polanski's expert camera work, it does produce quality results, especially for the lack of resources available in 1965. No CGI effects would be necessary, however, as the scenes were all done practically. The scene of the corridor of hands (Fig. 3)  create the impression that the house is alive and haunting Carole and is using her fear of men against her.

Fig. 4 Carole with Colin

Repulsion is therefore a very abstract film and it plays off Carole's phobia, and imprisoned her in her own home. The confined apartment is Carole's prison and it does not allow her to escape her fears. This tight setting is brilliantly praised in Tim Robey's review: "It's been an inspiration ever since for films about claustrophobic hysteria." - (Robey, 2013)

Illustration List:
Fig. 1 Repulsion (1965) Movie Poster - (Accessed 28/11/2014)

Fig. 2 Carole - (Accessed 28/11/2014)

Fig.3 Carole walking through Corridor of hands (Accessed 28/11/2014)

Fig. 4 Carole with Colin (Accessed 28/11/2014)


Macintyre, Elaine (2014) -Repulsion Review - (Accessed 28/11/2014)

Robey, Tim (2013) - Films in brief: Hors Satan, McCullin, Chinatown, Repulsion (Accessed 28/11/2014)

Variety (1964) - Review: 'Repulsion' - (Accessed 28/11/2014)

1 comment:

  1. Hi Dan, 2 nice reviews - well done :)
    You say in this one, that 'It is clear that the building is causing Carole stress'... could it be that Carole's stress is causing the hallucinations about the building?