November 17, 2015

Space Oddities: Repulsion Film Review

Repulsion Film Review

Repulsion is a black and white film from 1965, directed by Roman Polanski, starring Catherine Denueve portraying a beautiful young woman who suffers from androphobia and other mental illnesses.. The young woman, Carol, is left by herself when her sister, who is also her roommate, goes on holiday with her married boyfriend. She begins to have horrific hallucinations and we see her gradually go insane throughout the film.
Fig 1: Movie poster
At the beginning of the film, the set is very ordinary, it is not dramatic in the way that Fritz Lang’s’ ‘Metropolis’ has exaggerated doorways and enlarged furniture, it is subtle and relies on the music and acting to build up tension and create an atmosphere. The story takes place in a normal apartment in Kensington, England, in the 60’s.  Although, towards the end of the film we do experience a more elaborate set, one which is supposed to match the mind of the young woman who is in her descent into madness, the set being fractured, splintered and disturbing.  We see cracks begin to appear through the walls of the apartment and also walls cracking in half and across their lengths. At the beginning the whole apartment is clean and orderly, and we rarely see anything out of its place. After her sister leaves and Carol is left on her own we see the apartment transforming, starting with something as insignificant as shoes being left in doorways, to bathrooms being flooded and sofas upturned and broken furniture in every room.
"The sudden, giant cracks she imagines on switching on a light – they always creep me out with a thoroughness that run-of-the-mill horror movies never achieve. There can't be many other films which so plausibly show an entire, warped world created from a single point of view." (Peter Bradshaw, 2013)
Bradshaw explains in this quote from a film review in The Guardian that Repulsion uses unusual and uncommon ways of making viewers unsettled, unlike many other horror films which use lots of fake blood and  rely on gore to shock people, Repulsion uses shock which is more psychologically frightening to the audience. 
Fig 2. Film Still
The audience is really put into the position of Carol, we feel her claustrophobia, paranoia and fear, created by the shaky cameras which we see through her point of view, and the atmosphere created by the music and set design. Also the way we see the dramatic contrast of shadows and the way the music is very low and then suddenly loud and sometimes out of place, like the jazz music which sometimes plays over the top of scenes where you would not expect it. The use of this mismatching music is very unsettling and creates a tense atmosphere, as if something is about to happen. The film connects with the audience because it portrays fear in a way that is familiar to the audience, not through monsters and super villains, but though things that scare a lot of people who are left home alone by themselves, footsteps in doorways, creaks and cracks in doors, the fear of an intruder.
Fig 3: Film Still

It is a long film, and unfolds slowly, and there is not much plot or sense to it. It is just a psychological exploration through a person’s mind who suffers from mental illness. None of her illnesses are mentioned but are heavily implied, such as OCD, for example the way she always scratches her nose to the point where it becomes obsessive, and also the way she lines up the things from her glass in the bathroom. Schizophrenia may also be an illness that she had, as she had hallucinations which drove her to madness. Mainly it is implied that she has androphobia, an irrational fear of men, this is obvious throughout and her fear of men is a main theme in this film.

Figure 1: (Accessed 17/11/15)
Figure 2: (Accessed 17/11/15)
Figure 3: (Accessed 17/11/15) (Accessed on 18/11/15)

Space Oddities: Black Narcissus Film Review

Black Narcissus Film Review

Black Narcissus (1947) is a collaboration from the two directors Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger. It is a British film starring Deborah Kerr, Kathleen Byron and Jean Simmons. It is a film which is about a group of nuns who take over an old brothel high up in the Himalayas and make it their new, ‘Palace of Faith’, convent/hospital/school.

Fig 1. Movie poster
Throughout the film the nuns are exposed to more and more temptation that is against their religion, far from their morals and what they believe in and we end up at the end of the film with a very hysterical group of nuns. The film begins with a serious conversation between two very plain and stern nuns and as they enter the new palace in the mountains things start to shift away from the very structured, rigid set.
When the nuns first enter their new home, they are greeted by a man who is under dressed, in very short shorts with his chest bared, and we get the impression that it seems as if the man is being objectified, which is rare and uncommon in any film. This man is to become the temptation for the nuns as the film goes on, creating conflict between some of the characters.
There is one very specific moment of change in the film, where we can first obviously see the nuns succumbing to desirable temptations. This is where Sister Philippa slips by planting colourful flowers where they were to place vegetables, and she soon realises how her beliefs were being forgotten about and asks to transfer back to her old home.
Black Narcissus is a colour film, and in the beginning the colours are very washed out and unsaturated, this is amplified by the nuns in the first scene where you can see their pale, make-up free faces against their bleached white wimples and robes. The building they are in is also plain grey, and the whole scene is very dull and serious.  This very specific colour palette reflects on the nun’s plain lifestyle, which is deprived of desires of the senses and pleasure of any kind.  As we are introduced into the brothel in the Himalayas, it is a stark contrast between the two realities, we see rich reds and oranges, contrasted with many exotic green hues and blues. This is significant because Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger seem to relate sex with colour in this movie, and the idea of sex and sexual desire is always hand in hand with colour throughout the entire film.

Fig 2. Film Still
The whole of Black Narcissus was filmed in a studio in London, and despite the artificiality of some of the scenes, the filmmakers created an atmosphere that cannot go unrecognised by the audience, and it puts you into an entirely different reality and it feels as if it were set in another country. This was achieved by large scale, detailed matte paintings, props and exotic greenery. The matte paintings are mainly of mountains, which really gives the scenes scale and puts you into a different world entirely than if it were to be just the film studio. They are also used on the ground in some scenes, which give the look of the world depth and a sense of how high up the palace is in the mountains. The set uses a lot of foreign plants and trees, which you would never find in London. This makes the setting seem unknown and mysterious, and also exotic and exciting.
Fig.3 Matte Painting, Film Still
Black Narcissus explores female sexuality and it is a main theme. These nuns are not allowed to express their sexuality because it is their belief that they should not. As the film progresses we see that this becomes a struggle for some of the nuns, and one succumbs to it and  puts on red lipstick, which symbolises sex and sexuality, in pursuit of the man who is always flaunting around the palace. There is a lot of symbolism for sex, such as the red lipstick, the phallic objects which are constantly through the film, and also even the blooming flowers, which are essentially a plants genitalia.
Black Narcissus is a film which is confusing to watch and difficult to understand, as a lot of what is being put out is through suggestion and symbolism. It is a representation of female sexuality and sexual frustration, and is a film which is like no other and completely an original.

Figure 1: (Accessed on 14/11/15)
Figure 2: on 14/11/15)
Figure 3: (Accessed on 14/11/15)

What If? Metropolis: Concept Painting