Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Roman Polanski|
|Produced by||Gene Gutowski|
|Screenplay by||Roman Polanski|
|Story by||Roman Polanski|
|Music by||Chico Hamilton|
|Edited by||Alastair McIntyre|
Tekli British Productions
|Distributed by||Compton Films|
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 The screenplay is based on a scenario by Gérard Brach and Polanski, involving a young withdrawn woman who finds sexual advances repulsive and who, after she is left alone by her vacationing sister, becomes even more isolated and detached from reality.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, a Belgian manicurist, lives in London's South Kensington district, with her older sister Helen. Carol is remarkably detached, and struggles in her daily interactions. A would-be suitor is enamored with her and makes fervent attempts to court her.
Carol is troubled by her sister's relationship with a man named Michael, whom she seems to greatly dislike. She is unable to sleep, bothered by the sounds of their lovemaking. One morning, she asks if he plans to stay there every night, and Helen rebukes her. They receive a call from their landlord, who demands that they pay their overdue rent.
When Carol walks home from work, she is bothered by a crack in the sidewalk. Colin happens upon her as she sits on a bench, staring at it. She struggles to respond when he talks to her. He drives her home. They sit in front of her apartment and he tries to kiss her several times. She pulls away after one kiss, running upstairs and then vigorously brushing her teeth and weeping in her room. Helen later confronts Carol for throwing away Michael's belongings.
The next morning, Helen leaves to go on holiday in Italy with Michael, telling Carol that she has left the rent money on the table. At work, Carol is increasingly despondent, and is sent home early. At the apartment, she takes the rabbit out of the fridge. Instead of cooking it, she is distracted by a number of things around the apartment, including a used article of Michael's clothing on the floor. About to throw it away, she smells it and vomits. She notices a crack in the wall. After trying on one of her sister's dresses, she sees a dark figure in the mirror. That night, in bed, she hears footsteps outside her bedroom.
One morning she runs a bath and walks away from it, causing it to overflow. After work, she returns home and notices the plate of uncooked rabbit. As she turns on a light, the wall underneath the switch cracks open. She locks herself in her room and again hears footsteps. This time, she hallucinates that a man breaks into her room and rapes her. She is awoken on the floor of the hallway by the phone ringing. She answers it, and Colin is on the other end. She hangs up.
Carol has missed three days of work. As she is giving a manicure, she stabs her client in the finger. She is sent home early. The rabbit's head is shown in her purse. At the apartment, she looks at an old family photo. As she does this, the wall behind the photograph shatters like a mirror. Colin shows up but she refuses to open the door and he breaks it down. He apologises, declaring his love. As he turns his back, she clubs him repeatedly with a candlestick. She cleans the blood off the door and boards it shut, placing Colin's corpse in the bathtub.
Carol later gets into bed and, hallucinating, pulls away the sheets and goes through the same rape hallucination. She wakes up the next morning, naked on the floor. Later, she is clothed and as she is walking in the hall, a hand reaches out from within the wall, grabbing her. Then more hands appear, pulling at her hair and clothes. After a disturbing phone call, she cuts the cord when it rings again.
The landlord breaks into the apartment, the rent past overdue. She pays him and he looks around disgusted by the state of the apartment. He brings her a glass of water and covers her with a blanket. He touches her and she pulls away. He propositions her, offering to forget about the rent. He makes an aggressive pass at her but she pushes him off. As he comes again, she slits his throat using Michael's straight razor.
Carol sinks deeper into hallucination. When Helen and Michael finally arrive home, Helen is dismayed at the state of the place. Michael walks in and happens on Helen hyperventilating. She points at the bathroom, and he sees Colin's dead body. Michael attempts to contact the police, but realises the phone has been disconnected. Helen then finds Carol underneath her bed in a catatonic state. Her neighbours flood in and crowd around her. Michael picks her up and carries her out, smiling. The final scene pans slowly over items in the apartment, settling on a family photo showing Carol staring at something else while others in the photo smile for the camera.
- 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
It has been suggested that the film hints 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 installment 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: Eye of the Storm an essay by Bill Horrigan at the Criterion Collection