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|
|Box office||$3.1 million|
Repulsion is a 1965 British psychological horror film directed by Roman Polanski and based on a story by Polanski and Gérard Brach, who wrote the screenplay with David Stone. It stars Catherine Deneuve as a young, withdrawn woman who finds sexual advances repulsive and after she is left alone in her apartment, becomes even more isolated and detached from reality.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 beautiful Belgian manicurist, lives in London with her older sister Helen. Carol is remarkably detached and struggles in her daily interactions. A suitor, Colin, 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 dislike. She is unable to sleep, bothered by the sounds of their lovemaking. When Carol walks home from work, she is bothered by a crack in the sidewalk. Colin happens upon her and she struggles to respond when he talks to her. He drives her home and tries to kiss her several times but she pulls away, running upstairs and vigorously brushing her teeth before weeping. Helen confronts Carol for throwing away Michael's belongings. The next morning, Helen leaves to go on holiday in Italy with Michael. At home, Carol 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. About to throw it away, she smells it and vomits. After trying on one of her sister's dresses, she sees a dark figure in the mirror. That night, she hears footsteps outside her bedroom.
One morning she runs a bath and walks away, causing it to overflow. As she turns on a light, the wall 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 in the hallway by a phone call from Colin but she hangs up. Carol misses three days of work. As she is giving a manicure, she stabs her client in the finger and is sent home early. The uncooked rabbit's head is in her purse. At the apartment, she looks at an old family photo and the wall behind the photograph shatters like a mirror. Colin shows up but she refuses to open the door and he breaks in. He declares his love but she clubs him with a candlestick. She cleans the blood and places Colin's corpse in the bathtub. In bed, she goes through the same rape hallucination. She wakes up the next morning, naked on the floor. Later, hands appear out of the walls, pulling at her. After a disturbing phone call, she cuts the cord.
The landlord breaks into the apartment, the rent past overdue. She pays him while he is disgusted by the state of the apartment. He propositions her, offering to forget about the rent, and makes an aggressive pass at her but she hacks him to death with Michael's straight razor. She then sinks deeper into hallucination.
When Helen and Michael arrive home, Helen is dismayed at the state of the place. Michael happens on Helen hyperventilating and sees Colin's dead body. Helen finds Carol under her bed in a catatonic state. Her neighbours flood in as Michael picks her up and carries her out, smiling. The final scene pans over items in the apartment, settling on a family photo showing Carol as a child staring at something else while others in the photo smile for the camera.
- Catherine Deneuve as Carol Ledoux
- Ian Hendry as Michael
- John Fraser as Colin
- Yvonne Furneaux as Helen Ledoux
- Patrick Wymark as Landlord
- Renée Houston as Miss Balch
- Valerie Taylor as Madame Denise
- James Villiers as John
- Helen Fraser as Bridget
- Hugh Futcher as Reggie
- Monica Merlin as Mrs. Rendlesham
- Imogen Graham as Manicurist
- Mike Pratt as Workman
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 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 98% of 62 film critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 8.87/10. 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 June 2019, the film is number 52 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.
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- Repulsion: Eye of the Storm an essay by Bill Horrigan at the Criterion Collection