Thursday, 13 October 2016

I've Just Seen: Repulsion (1965)

Director: Roman Polanski

Catherine Deneuve turns up in a lot of celebrated films from the 1960s, and it is not hard to see why directors such as Jacques Demy, Luis Bunuel and Polanski worked with her. Compare her performance in The Young Girls of Rochefort, where she is bright and breezy, with her role as Carol in Repulsion, and you can see the spectrum of her acting range. Here she is contained, her blank face giving tiny glimpses into the tumult of emotions under the surface, as Carol has violent, distressing reactions to the men in her life.

Parts of the film reminded me of Lynch's Eraserhead, another story about a person's repulsive reaction to sex and its consequences. The skinned, rotting rabbit that Carol leaves around her flat recalled the disturbingly deformed child from Lynch's film. The black-and-white cinematography highlights the grunginess of Carol's apartment, and takes us into the dark, shadowy recesses of her mind in the dream sequences.

I tend to like Polanski's film, and this is certainly one of my favourites of his. While cinema is littered with stories about female madness (in fact, it seems to be the state of most female roles in stories throughout history), Deneuve's Carol is one of the quieter descents into madness; even her rape nightmare are soundless.


  1. In terms of effect, I think this is the middle of Polanski's "Apartment" trilogy. It's not the stunning number that Rosemary's Baby is, but I like it a lot more than The Tenant.

    The connection to Eraserhead is an intersting one, but one that works.

    1. I agree its not up there with Rosemary's Baby, or Chinatown, but they are masterpieces. I liked the slow-burn pace of this; you know there is something bugging Carol, but what exactly only comes out of her actions. She never says "I don't like sex or men really."

      The Eraserhead connection only came to me afterwards. They both have that sense of disgust to them, and a similar grunginess, a Polanski's film has a touch of the surrealist horror that Lynch's film has in spades.