Friday, 5 December 2014

Space Oddities Film Review - Repulsion


Repulsion is a 1965 British film directed by Roman Polanksi and stars Catherine Denevue and Yvonne Furneaux. The plot centres around a young Belgian woman and her mind along with the increasingly violent psychological destabilisation that occurs. We are introduced to Catherine, a young woman who works at a hair salon and has awkward, unhinged encounters with men. She lives with her sister Helen and Helen's boyfriend Michael and also finds their sexual encounters disturbing. 
Hors Satan of the Guardian states" Repulsion has Catherine Deneuve’s Carol recoiling in terror from male advances – some actual, many imagined – in her sister's South Kensington flat. It’s been an inspiration ever since for films about claustrophobic hysteria" (Satan, 2013), the flat that Caroline lives in is small and quite poky and although she is not a prisoner inside it the apartment could be symbolic of being trapped and alone after suffering from abuse and being unable to talk to someone else, in essence the apartment becomes her mind, slowly deteriorating and falling apart. Conversely however, Caroline decides to trap herself in the apartment; after killing a young man who courts her and then later barges his way into the apartement, Caroline then proceeds to barricade the door. This could be interpreted as her way of defending herself from the outside; by separating herself from the possibility of being hurt or attacked by other men.
The film's set design plays an important role in demonstrating the slow decline in Catherine's mental stability, frequently we see cracks forming in the building were Caroline is staying, these said cracks appear to be very metaphysical; visible only to Caroline and the viewers of the film, though they 
manifest themselves very clearly often appearing right in front of our eyes. These are likely symbolic of the slowly deteriorating mind of Caroline who, as events unfold, begins to exhibit exceedingly odd behaviour. Early on in the film when Caroline is walking to work we see a construction site, whether or not this a precursor to the symbolism of cracks and deterioration is not known. but is entirerly possible.

David Jenkins of the film review website Little White Lies "It's most likely that the film takes place in the world of nightmares, which would explain why Carol is seen nodding off in the film's opening scene." (Jenkins, 2012), in conclusion with this is the point that the swinging sixties, a time of sexual and cultural exploration, is commonly portrayed as being a fashionable, exciting period of the centruy yet in the film this is the opposite; Caroline and Helen live in a dingy apartment and are constantly berated by a vulgar landlord, Caroline becomes the object of lust for many men which causes her great discomfort and the hip London scene of the sixties is instead a mish mash of greasy-spoon cafes, dodgy bars and dingy neighbourhoods. 
Another analysis of Jenkins "nightmare" quote is how Caroline only sees the more fantasy characteristics when she turns the lights on, the film touches a lot on sexual subjects and jumping to the end of the film we see a picture of Caroline staring at her father in contempt hinting the possibility of her father abusing her when she was younger possibly at night hence the strange occurences when Caroline turns on the lights.

Figure - 1  Caroline sees a crack form right in front of her eyes.

David Jenkins goes on to say in his review "A microscopic membrane between dreams and reality remains in play throughout, with Polanski and Brach sticking hard and fast to cruel, apparently subjective torture rather than offering pat explanations for Carol's swelling mania." (Jenkins, 2012), this is an interesting point particularly when the we come to the end of the film. Her behaviour throughout the film evolves from a relatively benign level to a pathological display almost to the point of psychosis. A clever plot device is keeping the viewers in the dark about why she exhibits such paranoia about men and creates a great amount of tension and thought, the only real clues to this mystery are at the very end of the film when we see a close up picture of the family and we see Carol staring contemptuously at her father, this does not reveal any steadfast conclusions but gives the viewers some understanding and food for thought.

Figure - 2  Caroline lights up the corridor to see a horde of groping hands attempting to reach her.

Ultimately, Caroline's condition becomes overwhelming and the last shot of her is being carried out of the trashed apartment in a near catatonic state by her sister's boyfriend, her fate is not known. A quote by Edward Guntham states "Polanski's direction is tight and controlled and manages to place us inside Caroline Deneuve's head as she comes to see any man as a potential assailant." (Guntham, 1998). Guntham's quoute is quite true as the psychological symptoms manifest themselves as semi-real occurences that only Caroline and the viewers can see, in that sense we can really get a feel for what goes on in her mind and although the conduct of many of the men in the film is quite vulgar her fear of men becomes more apparent when we see the world throug her eyes.

David Jenkins, 2012, repulsion-22822 [ONLINE], Available at:  [Accessed on 5th December 2014]

 Hors Satan, 2013, Films-in-brief-Hors-Satan-McCullin-Chinatown-Repulsion.html [ONLINE], Available at: [Accessed on 5th December 2014]

 Edward Guntham, 1998, Repulsion-Makes-Deneuve-Go-Mad-Polanski-s-3005448.php [ONLINE], Available at: [Accessed on 5th December 2014]

Illustration List
Figure 1
Roman Polanski, 1965, repulsion6.png [ONLINE], Available at: (Accessed on 5th December 2014)

Figure 2
 Roman Polanski, 1965, Repulsion-2.jpg [ONLINE], Available at: (Accessed on 5th December 2014)

1 comment:

  1. A very thorough review Max! Nice one...

    Don't forget italicise your film names and quotes though. Also, don't centre your bibliography...just align it to the left as you have done the rest of the writing.

    Keep up the good work! :)