Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Roman Polanski|
|Produced by||Gene Gutowski|
|Music by||Chico Hamilton|
|Edited by||Alastair McIntyre|
Royal Films International
Repulsion is a 1965 British psychological horror film directed by Roman Polanski, and starring Catherine Deneuve, Ian Hendry, John Fraser and Yvonne Furneaux. The screenplay is based on a scenario by Gérard Brach and Polanski, involving a young withdrawn woman who finds sexual advances repulsive and who, after she is left alone by her vacationing sister, becomes even more isolated and detached from reality. Shot in London, it is Polanski's first English-language film and second feature-length production, following Knife in the Water (1962).
The film debuted at the 1965 Cannes Film Festival before receiving theatrical releases internationally. Upon its release, Repulsion received considerable critical acclaim and currently is considered one of Polanski's greatest works. The film was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Gilbert Taylor's cinematography.
Carol Ledoux (Catherine Deneuve), a Belgian manicurist, lives in Battersea, London, with her older sister Helen (Yvonne Furneaux). Carol practically sleepwalks through her days, and interacts awkwardly with men. A would-be suitor, Colin (John Fraser), is flummoxed by her behaviour and she rebuffs his advances, disgusted by them.
She hides her head in her pillow against her sister's cries of sexual pleasure with her lover, Michael (Ian Hendry). When Helen leaves on a holiday in Italy with Michael, Carol appears even more distracted at work, gets sent home after cutting a customer during a manicure. She stays in the apartment, leaving a raw, skinned rabbit out to rot, and begins to hallucinate, first seeing the walls cracking, a man breaking in and molesting her, later hands reaching out to grab and attack her. Colin breaks into her apartment when she refuses to acknowledge his adoration and he apologizes for his transgression. When he says he wants to "be with [her] all the time," she bludgeons him to death with a candlestick, dumps the body into the overflowing bathtub, and nails the broken door shut.
Later, the landlord (Patrick Wymark) also breaks in, looking for the late rent payment. Carol pays him and sits on the sofa, staring into space. He remarks on the decaying state of the apartment, and attempts to ingratiate himself by bringing her a glass of water as he leers at her in her nightgown. When he first propositions, then sexually assaults her, she gets away. When he comes at her again, she slashes him to death with a straight razor.
When Helen and Michael return, they discover the corpses and Michael goes for help. Helen finds Carol hiding under the bed in a catatonic state. Neighbors arrive – curious, concerned and shocked. Michael returns and carries wide-eyed Carol out. A family photograph on the floor shows Carol as a girl with a similar wide-eyed expression.
- Catherine Deneuve as Carole/Carol Ledoux
- Yvonne Furneaux as Hélène/Helen Ledoux
- Ian Hendry as Michael
- John Fraser as Colin
- Patrick Wymark as Landlord
- Valerie Taylor as Madame Denise
- James Villiers as John
- Helen Fraser as Bridget
- Hugh Futcher as Reggie
- Mike Pratt as Workman
- Renée Houston as Miss Balch
- Monica Merlin as Mrs. Rendlesham
- Imogen Graham as Manicurist
The story for Repulsion was conceived by Polanski and Gérard Brach, who wrote an outline of the script in Paris. According to Polanski, the film was shot on a modest budget of £65,000. To finance the film, Polanski and producer Gene Gutowski approached Paramount Pictures and British Lion Films, but both companies refused. Eventually, Polanski and Gutowski signed a contract with Compton Pictures, a small distribution company that had been known primarily for its distribution of softcore pornography films.
The film was shot in black and white by Gilbert Taylor, who had recently worked on Dr. Strangelove and A Hard Day's Night. Taylor photographed the apartments of female friends in Kensington for inspiration.
Themes and style
The movie vaguely suggests that her father may have sexually abused her as a child, which is the basis of her neuroses and breakdown. Other critics have noted Carol's repeated usage of items related to her sister's boyfriend Michael, as well as noting that his presence greatly provokes Carol at the beginning of the film.
The film also approaches the theme of boundary breaking, with Tamar McDonald stating that she saw Carol as refusing to conform to the expected "path of femininity".
It increasingly adopts the perspective of its protagonist. The dream sequences are particularly intense.
Repulsion was the first instalment in Polanski's "Apartment Trilogy", followed by Rosemary's Baby (1968) and The Tenant (1976), both of which are horror films that also take place primarily inside apartment buildings.
Film critic Bosley Crowther of The New York Times gave the film a positive review stating, "An absolute knockout of a movie in the psychological horror line has been accomplished by Roman Polanski in his first English-language film." Jim Emerson, filling in for Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, included the film in his list entitled "102 Movies You Must See Before...".
Upon the film's release to DVD, Dave Kehr reviewed the film for The New York Times praising the film's techniques and themes, saying, "Mr. Polanski uses slow camera movements, a soundtrack carefully composed of distracting, repetitive noises (clocks ticking, bells ringing, hearts thumping) and, once Carol barricades herself in the cramped, dark apartment, explicitly expressionistic effects (cracks suddenly ripping through walls, rough hands reaching out of the darkness to grope her) to depict a plausible schizophrenic episode."
Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 100% of 60 film critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 8.9 out of 10. The consensus states "Roman Polanski's first English film follows a schizophrenic woman's descent into madness, and makes the audience feel as claustrophobic as the character." As of January, 2018, the film is number 33 on Rotten Tomatoes' list of best rated films. Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, gives the film a score of 91 based on 8 reviews.
At the 15th Berlin International Film Festival in 1965, Repulsion won both the FIPRESCI Prize and the Silver Berlin Bear-Extraordinary Jury Prize. The film was also nominated for a BAFTA in Best Black and White Cinematography.
In 2009, the film was released as part of the Criterion Collection on DVD and Blu-ray. Both releases contain two documentary featurettes, audio commentary by Roman Polanski and Catherine Deneuve, original trailers, and a 16-page booklet.
- List of films with a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a film review aggregator website
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- Repulsion on IMDb
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- Repulsion at the Criterion Collection