Repulsion – A Classic Film

Written by Matteo Sedazzari
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5 repulsion roman polanski catherine deneuve matteo sedazzari zani 6.

As the haunting drums start to beat and the camera zooms away  from the beautiful eyes of Catherine Deneuve, the start of Repulsion is; sinister exquisiteness.

Made in 1965, filmed in West London and shot in black and white, by a then relatively unknown young film director Roman Polanski, this being his second feature and first English speaking film. 

Prior to Repulsion, Polanski had gained a reputation from his Polish short films, for being bizarre, intriguing, with sharp insight into people and their relationships.  Coincidentally, Polanski has equally lead a bizarre if not tragic life.  For he is facing extradition and sentence in his adopted home of the US, for statutory rape committed in March 1977, and  has been living in France since 1978. In addition, Polanski's beautiful wife Sharon Tate was brutally murdered by Charles Manson and The Family in 1969. Despite this, he has managed to make some classic films, including Rosemary’s Baby and Cul De Sac.

repulsion roman polanski catherine deneuve matteo sedazzari zani 5.Therefore, Polanski’s personal life and misfortunes add further to the intrigue of Repulsion, which is a haunting and disturbing film. Centering on Carol (Catherine Deneuve), a gorgeous Belgian, who works as a fashionable beautician in Kensington and lives with her sister Helen (Yvonne Furneaux) in a nice London pad near to her work.  Young and beautiful, with a trendy job and living in a happening city, would be more than enough for any young lady climbing the social ladder.  But for Carol, she resists the world and especially the attention of young men, who mainly come in the guise of Colin (John Frazer). Who tries his utmost to charm her, but to no avail, and foolishly presumes that Carol’s silence, is her playing hard to get.

There are no twists or turns in Repulsion, just a journey into the abyss.  From the onset, it is clear that Carol is not happy with the world, as she seems to distance herself from her rich clients, colleagues and men. The bleakness is strong, as it overshadows the glamour of the sixties, as Carol’s anxiety and paranoia starts to unfold. This is heightened, when Helen decides to go on holiday to Italy with her married boy friend Michael (Ian Hendry). Carol is dependent on her sister, who leaves her to face the wrath of their landlord (who later on in the film, tries to take advantage of Carol’s vulnerability)  and the rent arrears.

Alone in a flat and a city, with few if any friends, the isolation starts to take its toll on Carol as she ascends into a living nightmare, of rape - which could be flashbacks - and hallucinations of arms  coming out of the corridor to grope her.  Yes, Carol has well and truly lost her mind.  Polanski builds the tension by adding the sense of decay, as the flat plunges into squalor and waste food; in particular, a cooked rabbit that she has left to rot.  As Carol gazes bewilderingly into a mirror, not to admire her beauty, but perhaps looking for an escape.
With the over zealous Colin, still thinking he is playing the courting game with Carol, it does not take long before he comes knocking at her door. This proves to a be a fatal mistake, as Carol lashes out at him, and in doing so, she takes his life and has committed cold blooded murder,  but she shows no remorse nor fear for her action. Carol has gone beyond the point of no return, and capable of murder.

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Catherine Deneuve is mesmerizing and stunning as Carol, even though she utters few words, her  expressions and actions create the image of a little girl lost, and in doing so there is a great deal of empathy for her character.

Repulsion is a daring film, which goes straight for the jugular of relationships and human interaction, and pulls no punches in doing so.  When the film reaches its conclusion and the camera  zooms onto an unsettling family photo of Carol, Helen and their father, with Carol snarling behind her father’s back, the film ends just as it started, sinister exquisiteness.

© Words – Matteo Sedazzari/ZANI

Repulsion is available from Odeon Entertainment  
Read 6395 times Last modified on Friday, 08 May 2015 16:31
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Matteo Sedazzari

Matteo Sedazzari

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