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)


  1. ... the mysterious case of the missing quotes.... ?

  2. Interesting review... but yes, I agree with Phil! See my previous comments...