Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Repulsion (1965)

Repulsion is a 1960’s British psychological film directed by Roman Polanski. It stars Catherine Deneuve (Dancer in the Dark) as Carol Ledoux, Ian Hendry (Get Carter) as Michael, John Fraser (Isadora) as Colin and Yvonne Furneaux (La Dolce Vita) as Helen Ledoux.

The film follows a young French woman named Carol, who works within Central London as a Manicurist in an old women’s beauty salon. It is clear Carol despises men, however it isn’t fully explained why; the audience is given glimpses of her past though props such as the family portrait, where everyone in the photograph is smiling except for Carol. Time’s review describes that aspect in some detail, saying “In this simplified sexual interpretation of psychosis, no attempt is made to explain behavior except through the familiar device of a family portrait in which one sister stands aloof and stricken, while the other lies draped seductively over her father's knees.”(TIME, 2008) However, Polanski doesn’t go far enough to explain Carol’s repulsion of men for the audience to feel justified in sympathy for her.

Repulsion does well in pacing the film’s structure as well as character development in Carol. EmpireOnlines review describes the film’s plot as “Rather than making a mad person scary, the film terrifies by giving an audience a sense of what it’s like to lose sanity.”(Newman, 2007) Carol goes from anti-social behaviour into lunacy, barricading the door, attacking men, imagining cracks appearing within her apartment, hands coming out of the walls and even an imaginary man appearing within the apartment on more than one occasion to rape her, of course the audience views this from the perspective of Carol and knows that all these situations are conjured up within Carol’s mind. Polanski does well in taking the audience through the characters deteriorating mind.

The French accents of the characters Carol and Helen Ledoux were a charming aspect of the film; it created a nice distinguishing contrast with the seemingly charismatic Central London accent’s used by the rest of the characters.

However, one main dislike I had about the film was the Carols lack of emotion throughout the film, although it was intentional in the case of Carol when interacting with the opposite sex, her emotionless face was somewhat irritating during her interaction almost all characters. With the exception of Bridget when talking about Charlie Chaplin. To me her lack of emotion just seemed unnecessary and somewhat boring, especially as Carol keeps it consistent throughout the film.
Going back to aspects such as the cracks in the walls, Polanski does wonders in changing the environment to reflect Carol’s mindset. Timeout puts it well in saying “Polanski employs a host of wonderfully integrated visual and aural effects to suggest the inner torment Deneuve suffers” Cracks in the walls, the music and sounds employed throughout the film, and physical aspects such as the poultry left out to rot are some of the delicate areas that reflects what Carol is going through as she eventually deteriorates.

List of Illustrations

Fig. 1. The Wall of Hands

Fig. 2. Cracks in the Film

Fig. 3. Carol and Colin


Cinema: A Maiden Berserk
Author: Time Magazine
Oct 19, 2008
(Accessed on 18.01.10)

Repulsion (18)
Author: Kim Newman
Sep 21, 2007
(Accessed on 18.01.10)

Repulsion (1965) From Time Out Film Guide
Author: Geoff Andrew
Feb 9, 2006
(Accessed on 18.01.10)

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