|Submitted by filmfactsman |
(Dec 06, 2005)
Roman Polanski's first film in the West is, in my opinion, his best to date. When "Repulsion" was released it was considered by many--including young women who related to the sexually-repressed Carol (Catherine Deneuve) and her dangerous fantasies--to be more frightening than "Psycho". Today, it seems more unnerving than terrifying--although viewers still jump when they see the fantasy man's reflection in the mirror. Yet it remains fascinating as an exotic psychological thriller; an enigmatic portrait of a woman who sinks into madness; and an early look into the macabre mind of Polanski.
Deneuve is convincing as the lonely, unformed young woman who is drifting into insanity, whose mind is deteriorating while the food around her rots. She gets to laugh and smile only once in the film. At other times her Carol is withdrawn, frightened, guilty (her violent nightmares reflect that she wants to be punished for her sexual desires). She just pulls into herself, to where she can't be reached. It may all be very spooky, but Carol doesn't represent evil. Polanski treats her extremely sympathetically. Interestingly, even male viewers like me identify with Deneuve rather than with her male victims, whereas while watching "Psycho", everyone identifies with the psychotic's victims. Carol's hallucinations/nightmares are full of erotic images--it's a very sexy film--but Polanski doesn't want us to become aroused when she is raped and ravaged by her imagined male intruders. Significantly, we are disturbed by the attacks because we know Carol is suffering without achieving any kind of sexual satisfaction or liberation. We realize that she can't cope with the sexual confusion.
Most viewers and critics were annoyed because they believed Polanski should have explained the reasons for Carol's breakdown. Well he does. I'm certainly not going to give anything away but, as with the director's later films "Rosemary's Baby" and "Chinatown", anyone who leaves his seat, even for an instant, risks missing a new turn in the twisting story.
The mad have always fascinated artists. Painters have tried to depict their mystery through their physiognomy, the greatest dramatists and novelists have been challenged by the subject, and filmmakers have been attracted more frequently to the picturesque visions and melodramatic actions of the insane. There have been films which handled the relationship of society and mental illness in greater depth, but very few images of madness stay as vibrant in the memory as "Repulsion". [filmfactsman]