Repulsion (Roman Polanski, 1965)


Catherine Deneuve (Carole), Ian Hendry (Michael), John Fraser (Colin). Written by Gérard Brach and Roman Polanski. Directed by Roman Polanski. Rating: 18. Running time: 105 minutes.

A shocking portrait of paranoia and androphobia, Repulsion lets us observe the mind and life of Carole, a Belgian manicurist living in Kensington with her sister. A quiet girl, far from the dreamer of perverted sexual fantasies Deneuve played in Belle de Jour, Carole fears men and the prospect of their abusing her all out of proportion. She cringes lying in bed at night, hearing her sister making love in the room next door; she’s cold towards the polite local British man, Michael, who has an eye for her; and when her sister leaves for a holiday in Italy and Carole has the apartment to herself, her fears ultimately lead to her complete mental breakdown. Grubby male hands start to grab her from behind cracking walls, men apparently enter her apartment at night and rape her time and time again. Eventually, when Michael turns up at her door concerned she hasn’t appeared for three days, she responds by beating his head in with a candlestick, evidently convinced he was there to abuse her.

Deneuve clearly likes psychologically-confused characters, and locked up in an apartment with nobody to drive crazy but herself, Polanski provides her the perfect environment in which her senility can flourish. Some of her hallucinations and the crimes they drive her to commit are truly horrifyingly shot. Repulsion really is a film that defies definition. It’s too quiet and sparing to be a clear-cut thriller or horror, and yet too disturbing to just be labelled a drama. The best comparison that can be made would be to something like Lynch’s Eraserhead or Hitchcock’s Psycho, two other mild horrors and black and white studies of the dark side of humanity, largely set around one location. Repulsion is easily as shocking as either of those two masterpieces, and it’s probably as good as them too.

One Response to “Repulsion (Roman Polanski, 1965)”

  1. 1 Belle de Jour (Luis Buñuel, 1967) « jacob williamson | thoughts on film

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