Thursday, 5 January 2017

Repulsion (1965)

Fig 1: Poster
Roman Polanski's Repulsion (1965) is a psychological horror film. The movie tells a story about Carol Ledoux who lives with her older sister Helen. She displays hardly any emotions and is very uncomfortable in men's company. She finds men disgusting and tries to stay out their way at any cost, however her behaviour does not stop Colin's interest in her and he keeps trying to get closer to her. Helen leaves for a holiday to Italy with her lover Michael and leaves Carol alone for a while in their apartment. After her older sister leaves Carol, she begins to become more distracted and distant, which leads to her being sent home from work and does not leave the apartment. She leaves out a skinned rabbit to rotten and as times go she began to hallucinate more and more disturbing things, such as the walls cracking or male hands reaching out from the walls and start grabbing and attacking her. She often dreams of a man attacking her and raping or molesting her. When she does not comes out of her apartment, Colin breaks in in order to make sure she is fine, which scares Carol and she refuses to see his love for her. When Colin confesses that he wants to be with Carol all the time, she beats him to death with a candlestick and leaves his body in the over-floating water of the bathtub and in panic nails the door shut. Later when the landlord breaks in as there is no answer at the door, he commands that she pays the late rent. After Carol gives him the required money, she sits on the sofa and he seemingly wanders around the room trying to comfort the distant woman while staring at her in her nightgown. He remarks on the devastated state of the apartment and later tries to sexually assault her, when she firstly gets away and the second time he tries to push himself upon her, she kills him with a razor. When Helen and Michael arrives back they shocked to find the place nearly destroyed and with the curious neighbours gathering in the apartment they find the dead bodies, but not Carol. Later she is found hiding under the bed in a catatonic state and is carried away by Michael who stares at her creepily. The last shot is a zoom into an old family picture, where Carols as a young girl stares at an adult male (possibly her father) with disgust and horror in her eyes.
Fig 2: Carol in the enlarged, destroyed room
"Roman Polanski's classic psychological film noir Repulsion is an absorbing, disturbing and beautifully crafted portrayal of mental disintegration." (Macintyre, 2015) From the beginning of the film the audience has a clear knowledge that Carol has a weird and distant personality and behaviour, as she acts unusual, too quiet and thee is a clear discomfort with men. As time passes, it only becomes clearer that she is slowly going insane all alone. She is seemingly scared and disgusted by men and tries to stay away from them. Whenever her disturbed mind creates a horrible hallucination, she comes face-to-face with a male who is molesting and sexually assaulting her, such as the male hand that break out from the walls and grabbing and touching her. She often have nightmares or fantasies about a man raping her at night, which she seems to accept at the end as she puts on lipstick, suggesting that she accepts her 'fate'. Furthermore, when she leaves the skinned rabbit out to rotten, it represents that as in the 1960' in London, women are only treated as pieces of meat. There is also a few stereotypical symbols in the film, such as the women in the salon, getting their make-up, hair and nails done to make themselves look desirable and men telling dirty jokes, drinking beer in the pub. This films reflect a negative image on men as they seem to come across as the enemy. Right next to the apartment she lives in there are nuns happily playing ball games outside, which suggest their calm and happy life without men.
Fig 3: Rotting rabbit
"Through a brilliant manipulation of space, time, and sound, Polanski vividly recreates a schizophrenic experience." (Hutchings, s.d.) The rotting rabbit is not only a symbol, but it is an important object, as it shows how time goes by and that Carol spends lots of time alone. The sounds and music helps to tell the story and makes it a bit clearer. When she is on the streets there is often music, but when she is alone in the apartment there is unsettling silence and only faint noises of everyday objects, such as clocks ticking or phone ringing can be heard. this puts the emphasis on the emptiness in the house and how alone she is. Furthermore, while she is loosing her mind,  the small rooms expand and the space becomes huge, creating the feeling that she is small, helpless and alone. As we see the house cracking and falling apart, it represent her mind crumbling down. At one point, some of the walls become soft, which instantly reminds the audience of flesh, like the house is alive.
Fig 4: Apartment cracking and falling apart
The film is black-and-white, so there is more focus on the shadows and lighting. While most of the story is shown during the day, the long corridors and large rooms appear to be slightly dark and sinister. When Carol is in a dark area of the house, the contrast between light and dark is very strong, like when she passes through the corridor with the hands, the lighting source is behind her, giving her a strong outline while the walls and corners are dark, which gives the impression as if she is lost and weak. "The camera acts as a conduit to her emotions: long slow shots that track her aimless progress down the street or follow her eyes as they alight on something horrible in the flat allow us to get right under her skin." (Macintyre, 2015) There are several camera angles and shots that pulls the audience right into the story as if we are with Carol. The zoom ins are often focus on her face, which shows nervousness and distraction, which shows the audience a kind of coldness of the character. Furthermore, when she kills Colin, the camera is in perspective as the viewer is the man himself and appears as Carol beats him to death while you watch it from Colin's eyes; like the audience is him at that moment. Or similarly, when she kills the landlord, the camera shows her from a lower angle. This makes the person watching feel more tension as it a clear invitation into the maddening story.
Fig 5: Corridor with hands
Fig 6: Low angle perspective
Carol is not a necessarily likeable character, as she lacks of emotional display and there is not much connection between the audience and the character. However this only gives power to the knowledge that she is indeed distant and very closed in. However seeing her suffer and face her own demons still makes he viewer feel sympathy towards her. "She is so physically flawless that she often seems half human: An anemic girl, she can barely lift up her arm, yet at the same time she is highly sensual, an ample, heavily breathing woman with more than a glint of carnality in her dreamily vacant eyes." (Morgan, 2011) She is a beautiful woman, which makes it that much harder to see her acting so unusual, sometimes even similar to a child, it is like she has not grown up completely. But her pretty features and dreamy eyes whats makes her very appealing to men, which makes her that much of an easier target. However the audience is never told why is she exactly like this, only leaves a few clues to set up a theory about what could have caused her to become like she is. There is a suggestion that she might have been abused and sexually assaulted in the past, most likely by a male relative, such as her father. When the family photo is shown of her as a child surrounded by other family members, she is starring at a male figure instead of the camera, with terrified and disgusted look on her face. As only her face and the adult man's face is lightened up while the rest of the photo is covered by the shadow, it leads to the conclusion that something have happened between the two characters that has scared her and left her mentally damaged.
Fig 7: Childhood photo of Carol (staring at the adult male figure)


Illustration List: 

No comments:

Post a Comment