Repulsion (1965)

Revulsion, directed by Roman Polanski, is his first English-made film and a great example of his talent for suspense and quiet paranoia. He shows through his filmography that he has a real tendency or characterization of apartments as terrible, solitary locations. They’re small and hot, unclean and perched above the alive city and all the moors that goes on right below on the streets. His film “Rosemary’s Baby”, though having to do with fear of pregnancy, also involves a woman in an apartment, paranoid and introspective.

Carol, played by Catherine Deneuve, a man-hating introvert, she works at a multistory woman’s parlor, rarely ever being around men, good or bad. The first scene shows a woman laying on a cushioned bench, her face painted with invigorating lotion, Carol silently unresponsive to the woman’s demands. We can see that she is caged by her mind, which results in some trouble at work. She lives in an apartment beside a church-tower, the bell periodically ringing right outside the kitchen-window. Living in the apartment with her is her older sister and the sister’s boyfriend, a wife-cheating smooth-talker who can’t get on good terms with Carol no matter how hard he tries. He annoyingly touches her things stashed underneath the bathroom cupboard: this meticulous focus on detail displays her indefinite obsessiveness and highly anti-social tendencies.

Carol has a James Dean like early-twenties man somewhat stalking her as she walks on the street, trying to persuade her to go out to lunch with him. He seems warm-hearted, and Polanski strays away from first-person and into this man’s perspective at certain times; he really seems like just a simple, friendly guy with a bit of a crush. But she doesn’t see him as anything good, she sees him as an annoying, rotten little vermin continuously poking her. Her inability to socialize with the opposite-gender turns her into a paranoid shut-in, and for the second half of the film she’s exactly and only that: whoever visits her disovers the deep recesses of her mind, especially now that her sister has departed on vacation and left her by herself.

Polanski displays a keen photographic eye, invoking sharp-cuts into the gloomy eyes of our protagonist, and chaotic moments of extreme angst and anxiety, a shaky-camera mixed with Carol’s bulging pupils and placid-white skin. A classic of American cinema, and a clear indicator of the quality of work Polanski would continue to produce.

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