(fig. 1 – original poster)
“Repulsion” (1965) is a psychological thriller that plays with the viewers’ sanity and conveys its ideas using an extraordinary sound and set design.
Peter Bradshaw states that: “It is one of Roman Polanski's most brilliant films: a deeply disturbing, horribly convincing psychological thriller that is also that rarest of things: a scary movie in which a woman is permitted to do the killing.” (Bradshaw, 2013) The movie starts slowly with a deep feeling of sympathy for the main character (maybe because of the camera close-ups of the face or because she is beautiful, immediately earning the attention of any viewer) and during the escalated insane killings one can only feel bad for the actress and somehow “approve” of her actions based on irrational fear of intimacy. Criterion.com talks about the main character – Carol (Catherine Deneuve): “She is soon haunted by specters real and imagined, and her insanity grows to a violent, hysterical pitch. Thanks to its disturbing detail and Polanski’s adeptness at turning claustrophobic space into an emotional minefield, Repulsion is a surreal, mind-bending odyssey into personal horror.” (The Criterion Collection, 2014)
The excellent usage of camera movements is explained by Elaine Macintyre: “While we never find out why Carol is the way she is, certainly by the end of the film we know what it feels like to be her. 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, 2014)
(fig. 2 – movie still)
The viewer can see how the space which Carol inhibits is changing as she is slowly losing her mind and the grip of reality. Slowly but surely she cuts off her ties to the real world – not going to work, refusing to socialize and drowning deep in fear, pulling the curtains on her windows in an attempt to block any sunlight. The apartment changes, cracks appear and previously safe corridor turns into a forest of hands waiting for an assault.
One of the most disturbing scenes in the movie is when Carol puts on a lipstick, as if preparing for her imaginary assaults, part of which are quite frightening not because she screams, but because all sound is missing, making the viewer incredibly aware of what is happening and really uncomfortable. (fig. 3)
(fig. 3 - movie still)
In conclusion, “Repulsion” is a great piece of cinematography, because it makes the viewer understand just what might be happening in the mind of a person who is consumed by fear and lost touch with reality, living only in their morbid hallucinations.
Fig. 1 - Cinefantastiqueonline.com, (2014). [online] Available at: http://cinefantastiqueonline.com/wp-content/uploads/repulsion.jpg [Accessed 20 Nov. 2014].
Fig. 2 - Macintyre, E. (2014). Cult Classic Film Review: Repulsion. [online] Elainemacintyre.net. Available at: http://www.elainemacintyre.net/film_reviews/repulsion.php [Accessed 20 Nov. 2014].
Fig. 3 - Adiana, A., Adiana, A. and profile, V. (2013). Ayunie Adiana: Mise-en-scène Film Programme: Repulsion (1965). [online] Ayunie-adiana.blogspot.co.uk. Available at: http://ayunie-adiana.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/mise-en-scene-film-programme-repulsion.html [Accessed 20 Nov. 2014].
Bradshaw, P. (2013). Repulsion – review. [online] the Guardian. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/jan/03/repulsion-review [Accessed 20 Nov. 2014].
The Criterion Collection, (2014). Repulsion. [online] Available at: http://www.criterion.com/films/404-repulsion [Accessed 20 Nov. 2014].
Macintyre, E. (2014). Cult Classic Film Review: Repulsion. [online] Elainemacintyre.net. Available at: http://www.elainemacintyre.net/film_reviews/repulsion.php [Accessed 20 Nov. 2014].