The latest film in Splatter Time Fun Fest 2011 is the first time I’ve seen Catherine Deneuve be anything but a sweetheart!
Screenplay By: Gérard Brach, Roman Polanski, & David Stone
Directed By: Roman Polanski
The tile of Roman Polanski’s 1965 film says it all, repulsion faces Catherine Deneuve’s Carole at every turn. It begins in tinny gestures, a shoulder shrug here, the lack of a reaction there. By the midway point of Repulsion Carole has reached full blown disgusted status, soon to be followed by a lack of functioning at all. In the final moments of Repulsion a closer look at a family picture shows that Carole has always been repulsed by members of the opposite sex. But, repulsion isn’t all that’s in Carole’s eyes, there’s a healthy dose of fear there as well. Men aren’t just a towering figure for Carole to avoid, they are a monstrosity for her to run away from as fast as she can.
The realization that comes from the picture crystallizes why Carole breaks down as she does. Carole never had a chance, she exists in a world where her weirdness and odd nature are to be ignored and treated as simple abnormalities. There’s nothing wrong with Carole after all, she’s just a bit odd, a bit put out and a bit on the crazy side. Her craziness is attractive, it’s not something others need to help her with. Rather, it’s a quality that opposite sex sees as even more reason to bag her. But, Carole is truly troubled, her fear leads her to see things that don’t exist. This makes her world even more full of terror, an unrelenting sort of horror from which Carole will never find any reprieve.
The genius of what Mr. Polanski does with the content of the above two paragraphs is to craft both a riveting horror movie and a cautionary tale of the ignorance of the 60s. I think the first sentiment I put forth is accepted as a truth by the majority of people. The second sentiment is more along the lines of my own interpretation and I’m not sure how many other people agree with said interpretation. For me it was there as clear as day, Mr. Polanski was using the horror genre to explore the ignorance found in the 60s towards those with a disease like schizophrenia. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t find this aspect the be all and end all of Repulsion, but it added to the overall experience for me.
Repulsion is a great horror film, I know I’ve kind of avoided saying that, but the horror found in Repulsion simply does not work without the other elements of the film. That being said, Repulsion uses a variety of horror tactics and they all work. There are a few jump scares, a building dread, and an atmosphere that dominates the picture. Mr. Polanski uses his camera to great affect, smothering the viewer in his claustrophobic images. Just as Carole has no escape from her terror we have no escape from what Carole endures. The scenes where Carole walks the streets are the best examples of this. The camera moves around her, probing the area for some avenue of escape but its always drawn back in, usually for a close-up, because there is no escape from the claustrophobia of Repulsion.
A taut horrific experience, Repulsion is concerned more with the psychology of horror than the scares of horror. By placing the concern on the psychology behind Carole and the horror she endures Mr. Polanski crafts a truly horrific picture. The atmosphere that permeates the picture never lets up, Catherine Deneuve gives a startling performance of a woman unhinged and I came away from Repulsion feeling quite dirty yet enjoying the experience all the same.