31 Days of Halloween 21 – Repulsion is unpleasant
Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (1965) is unpleasant on purpose. The main character is Carole, a shy and quiet woman, who goes from being detached to clinically schizophrenic. After her sister leaves town, she slowly drifts from reality. Polanski offers numerous metaphors and cues to signal Carole’s condition, from a cracking facial mask to repairs in the kitchen that go undone. Polanski directs the camera expertly, closing in on Carole when appropriate, and follows her to document her nightmarish days and nights.
Insane Person: I must get this crack mended.
Carole is cracking, as her rational state of mind comes unglued. She drifts around in a dreamy, waif-like state and seems unable to have a real life. Polanski spends 40 minutes setting up his movie, where we are treated to metaphor after metaphor for Carole’s deteriorating state. Besides this, Polanski uses silence to characterize Carole’s isolation, but plays with other sounds to grate against our senses. The way Carole hears, sees and thinks of the world are all presented in the movie.
Catherine Deneuve plays Carole. She is a French actress who has done many films, many of them independent movies or art house flicks. As Carole, she has very little to say, but her emotional state and visible depression is obvious. Her introspective acting reminded me of the character Barbara in George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, but taken a few steps further. Carole is a murderer, an obsessive compulsive, and a psycho. Much like Norman Bates, she has a mental illness and a trigger, a repulsion that causes her to do the things she does.
Polanski plays with reality in this movie. Carole thinks she sees a man looking at her in a mirror, but when she turns to look, he’s gone. Is she really seeing things? We accompany her through her dreams and nightmares, and I think she has some form of freakish self-consciousness. She has a boyfriend, but she seems like a reluctant girlfriend. He is able to steal a kiss, but she is so obsessive compulsive, she has to brush her teeth over and over out of insane repulsion of his touch. That’s what it comes down to. She is repulsed by men, and eventually, by reality itself.
I don’t think a lot of people are going to seek out this movie and watch it, that’s just the way it is. It’s an unpleasant movie about a psycho woman who does weird stuff and kills people when she goes over the edge. It’s not fun or entertaining, not even in a campy way. It is a serious exploration of psychosis, which Polanski paints as deliberately born of childhood trauma. The final shot is of Carole as a young girl, with that same stupid, absent look she has as an adult, staring with all her hate at her father.
All in all, this is a pretty good movie if you have some patience. It has many of the classic horror tricks we now take for granted, like the guy in the mirror, who won’t be there when the heroine turns around. The metaphors seeping into reality are the best part and Polanski builds an effective look at a deranged character. She cuts and slashes at her attackers out of fear much more than malice, but she’s unable to speak because she’s build up fences and walls in her own mind. The final image could be interpreted a number of other ways beyond the one I mentioned, but it could be that she was always strange, and was pushed over the edge by isolation or her own fears and horrors.
31 Days of Halloween Movie Marathon
1 – Frankenstein and the Monster from HELL (1974)
2 – Dracula has risen from the grave (1968)
3 – The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964)
4 – Evil Dead II (1987)
5 – Dawn of the Dead (1978)
6 – Les Diaboliques (1955)
7 – The Howling (1981)
8 – Friday the 13th (1980)
9 – Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
10 – Hellraiser (1987)
11 – Let the Right One in (2008)
12 – Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1984)
13 – House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
14 – The Strangers (2008)
15 – The House of the Devil (2009)
16 – Psycho (1960)
17 – The Orphanage (2007)
18 – The Amityville Horror (1979)
19 – The Raven (1963)
20 – Blue Velvet (1986)
21 – Repulsion (1965)
22 – Dementia 13 (1963)
23 – The Vanishing (2008)
24 – Halloween (1978)
25 – Shaun of the Dead (2004)
26 – The Silence of the Lambs (1988)
27 – An American Werewolf in London (1981)
28 – Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
29 – The Exorcist (1973)
30 – The Ring (2002)
31 – Night of the Living Dead (1968)