60/60 Review #34: Repulsion.

This really was the perfect film to wrap up this month. First, let's just look at the director. Roman Polanski has led a pretty WTF life. His wife was murdered by Charles Manson's followers while she was pregnant. Later, Polanski was convicted of raping a 13-year-old girl, causing him to flee the country to avoid prison. He hasn't been back since (despite his victim attempting to get the charges dropped more recently), but he continues to make films even today.

Then look at the film itself. Made in 1965, Repulsion tells to tale of Carole (Catherine Deneuve), a young woman who is apparently sexually repressed. Her sister leaves her alone in their apartment while she goes on vacation with her boyfriend, and Carole begins to go insane, zoning out the majority of the time, and then having fantasies about being raped at night. There's not much more I'd like to go into in order to avoid spoiling anything.

But man, talk about conflicted thoughts on a film. I've seen both of these comparisons, so I know it's not just me (and that made me happy), but this movie was like a mix of Black Swan and Eraserhead. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if this film had any kind of inspiration for either of those movies--though I have heard that Aronofsky loves this film and talks about it as an inspiration frequently, so it makes sense.

So in the one sense, I liked the film because I loved Black Swan. It's very much a psychological thriller with Carole going insane (though I figure she was already insane, primarily based on the picture from when she was a little girl). She zones out, she hallucinates, she becomes violent, she fantasizes about things based on sexual repression... and has difficulty discerning the fantasy from the reality. Hell, there's even a "fingernail" scene in this movie. And, similarly, there were some scary moments and some disturbing, tough-to-watch moments. Also, this film has a really effective "mirror" jump scare, the kind that's overused today; I just wasn't expecting it in this older film.

But, on the other hand, this movie was also very Lynchian (despite pre-dating Lynch). There was a lot of "weird" in this movie. Some of it was just her losing her mind, like cracks in the walls and/or the apartment falling apart. But then there was stuff like the dead rabbit (and I had to look up what it was, because I could never tell--though I could have missed a line that explained it). That thing was disgusting, and it just led to more and more gross-ness. Then there was the walls turning to clay at various points and the hands coming out of nowhere. Then there were random people on the street (one group in particular kept coming back, a music trio that just made their way down the road for no apparent reason). And, of course, just her staring at nothing for ages. This is a very quiet movie, and Carole barely speaks. A lot of the time, she's just blanking out and staring at stuff for no real reason, or she'll start twitching and rubbing/flicking at her nose. It wasn't as WTF as Eraserhead, but there certainly were elements both thematically and visually that reminded me of it.

The only other major thing I wanted to mention in this review was the sound. Like I said, it's a very quiet movie, and I honestly can't remember much of a soundtrack. What I do remember were the silent moments where you would just hear some background noise amplified. These specifically happened during moments of rape or violence, where everything is muted except for something like a ticking clock. And, for the most part, it's pretty effective.

I know there are more layers of this film that I'm missing. I'm just not sure it's a film I'd care to revisit much. The first 45 minutes (or so) are painfully dull. After that is when her sister leaves, so it starts getting a wee bit more interesting. And there are truly some very good and effective scenes. I was creeped out/disturbed at times, and I even jumped once (darn those mirror scares!), despite it not really being a "scary" movie in that sense. It has an interesting visual eye to it, and I can definitely see how somebody could really like this movie. But I think if I wanted to revisit something very similar and--to me--a bit more entertaining, I'll just rewatch Black Swan.

I Am McLovin!

(P.S. Finally! I'm done with WTF Month! While not filled with the greatest movies ever, this month will definitely be one of the ones I'll remember the most (though not necessarily because I want to). Next I'm moving into the month I've been waiting for! It's the only month in this whole project dedicated to a single director. I haven't seen a single one of his films (just a classic scene here or there), which I'm going to be rectifying, obviously. Can't wait! That's right, we're moving into Hitchcock Month.)


  1. Glad you liked it. I actually like this film a lot more than Black Swan. It embraces the fracturing psychology in a visual nightmare. We watch her psyche slowly break apart and so much of it is done with very little. A sound, a special effect, a brief glimpse of terror.

    And yes, that mirror scene got me bad when I saw it. In part because I wasn't expecting it and I think even more so because of the lack of sound. In any other moment, they're be some sort of musical or sound effect queue. Here, it just happens as it probably would in real life and it makes it more unexpected and disturbing.

  2. The first part really is dull! The first time I tried to watch it, I fell asleep.

    The slowness does make the shocking events all the more shocking, though. They happen out of nowhere and suddenly.

  3. re: the mirror scene... actually, there is a musical queue. There's a big "RA!" musical blast as even the modern flicks do it.

    I think why I like Black Swan more, though, is for a couple reasons. First, the slip into insanity is more gradual. In this, it seems to just happen suddenly and without much reason. Second, Repulsion is WAY too slow paced for me. The first half has almost nothing happening, and the second half--while much better--feels like there are a few pacing problems that truly kept me from getting fully involved.

    That, and the main character in this kinda annoyed me...

  4. Steve: lol... I fell asleep, too. I had to watch it in 2 sittings.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.