Repulsion is a superb film! It was made in 1965 and is a masterpiece.
Repulsion stars the young Catherine Deneuve as a timid, shy and confused beauty salon consultant called Carol who lives in a shared apartment with her boisterous, domineering sister.The sister leaves for a holiday in Europe and Carol's breakdown begins.
What is so great about Repulsion is the way it captures and then gets inside the disintegrating psyche of a deeply troubled woman.Carol,(like many of the mentally ill), gradually finds that her fragile state of mind increasingly incapacitates her until she is no longer able to function socially and isolates herself in the apartment.
What Polanski does is very clever. He experiments with skewed perspective - at the beginning everything is as it should be - the walls of the apartment are as we would expect, the rooms small and claustraphobic. With Carol's shredded psyche tearing itself apart, we see the walls stretching, elongating and morphing - rooms are enlarged and Polanski uses many different camera techniques such as wide-angle lenses and extreme close-up to achieve the necessary effects.
Catherine Deneuve shows her true star quality in Repulsion. Her performance is at times moving and disturbing. I often think it is easier for an actor to show their talent through gratuitousness, the better actor can perform with subtlety, grace and understated nuance - and this is just what Deneuve does! It would have been so easy for her to have overcooked it - but she doesn't. Here is a film that would have lived or died on the quality of the lead's performance and Deneuve just nailed it! There is something about her grace, style and elegance that speaks to us of the qualities of her generation. It seems to me, the more I watch these older films, that the women in them had an ethereal, beautiful innocence that we seem to have lost in our culture. There is a world-weary brashness now that was not present then.
I can only think of one other actress and performance to which this is comparable, and that is the fragility of a brilliant Sissy Spacek in the excellently chilling Carrie. What both Deneuve and Spacek manage to do in both these films is to capture an intoxicating, troubling mixture of fragility and danger that I have yet to see anywhere else.
What Polanski also does is to use objects and visual devices to depict Carol's mental fracturing. We see walls breaking apart, cracks in the pavement, potatoes decomposing on the kitchen work surface, a cooked rabbit gradually decomposing on a tray in the living room, hands and arms breaking through walls to grab Carol in the apartment hallway.
Polanski classes the film as horror but it is not the kind of horror we are used to seeing. In fact, Repulsion is as far-flung from formulaic Hollywood horror as you are ever likely to get - and is all the more brilliant as a result. Much like Hitchcock, Polanski experiments and plays with the genre and the viewers percieved expectations - there is no pandering here.
(Another reason to love 'Repulsion' - it stars the incomparable Helen Fraser as Bridget. Helen went on to become a mainstay on the hugely popular and extremely camp ITV series 'Bad Girls' as the termagent prison warder Sylvia 'Bodybag' Hollamby!!)
'The Eye Boundary: Repulsion' by Didier Truffot @ Sense of Cinema
'Repulsion' @ IMDB
'Repulsion' @ DVD Times
'Repulsion' @ BFI
'Repulsion' @ Wikipedia
'Repulsion' @ Channel 4 Film
The Terror Trap: Repulsion
Roman Polanski @ pHinnWebb
Catherine Deneuve @ IMDB
Roman Polanksi @ IMDB