Repulsion, directed by Roman Polanski in 1965, is a black and white horror film in which a young woman loses her sanity whilst in deep loneliness in her own flat. The main character resides in a Kensington flat with her sister and works in a beauty parlour, the main character is already known for “spacing out” but despite her obvious mental issues her sister decides to leave her alone in the flat for a few days while she goes on a holiday with her boyfriend. Carole almost instantly seems to further lose contact with reality and starts to hallucinate which inevitably leads to the gruesome murders of her boyfriend and land lord at her hands.
The film relies very heavily on its soundscape, for example the phone ringing when the landlord wants to speak to Carole seems to be louder every single time which perhaps suggests that she gets closer and closer to insanity and increases the overall intensity of the situation. The music is either very prominent or it is deadly quiet which is when Carole seems to have her most disturbing moments or when she is mentally lost. “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, 2012:2) During a scene of hallucinated sexual assault the sound is used in another way, dead silence is all the audience can hear having a piercing effect on the audience as the horrific nature of the scene is communicated soundlessly.
The main character has deep seated problems with men which becomes more apparent when her boyfriend kisses her and she flees and is clearly shaken by the event. “A Belgian beautician living in London, Carol is undoubtedly repulsed by all the life collected around her. Specifically, the men cause her trouble. As a model-perfect face with thick blond hair, she turns men’s heads in spite of her obvious mental issues.” (Sorrento, 2009:2) She seems very disturbed when she can hear her sister and her boyfriend having sexual intercourse in the neighbouring room, which perhaps lead to the rape hallucinations (or fantasies?) she has every night after her sister leaves. They seem to be slightly unreal because the sound of her protesting and the act is cut off but a very fast clock is ticking away and she gets woken up by a ringing phone.
The movie is rendered in a black and white monotone setting. This is probably to help emphasise the depressed and gloom feeling of the main character Carole as she slips deep into depression and insanity. The sets seem almost uninteresting and lifeless when rendered in monotone which is perhaps how the audience is supposed to relate to them and see them almost as through Carole’s eyes. A symptom of depression is to see the world “Greyed out” and perhaps the directors have used this to help push the feeling or depression and helplessness to the audience.
Figure 1. Carole and her boyfriend (1965)
The camera shots are very long and enable the viewer to take in details about objects or the main characters feelings and state of mind which often becomes apparent in her empty looks while she walks through the city. The main character has a very ghost like appearance as her eyes seem unable to focus which makes her seem distant from the scene and what is happening around her. Whenever she feels threatened she flees into a corner and gives the personalisation of a trapped defenseless animal which turns to primal rage, which further suggests that her mental state is revealing her primal instincts first before it lets her think.
One of the artistic devices used to make the audience experience her insanity is the growing space of the flat, the first time she walks back into the bathroom after she puts the body in the bath it seems two or three times longer than all the other times perhaps illustrating the feeling of losing touch with reality and the world around her. The living room also seems to expand around the corner into where the main characters sister’s room should be, which might illustrate how she retreats into herself and detaches from her surroundings but maybe also how it takes increasing effort to move forward, almost all action from this moment on takes place in the rooms closest to the front door perhaps illustrating a growing feeling of entrapment in her emotional state.
Overall the Repulsion makes great use of artistic devices of colour and space as well as cleverly choreographed camera shots to also emphasise the growing insanity in the main characters mind and her own twisted interpretation of the world and events around her. The movie also makes amazing use of sound to intensify key moments such as the imagine abuse scenes and murders, perfectly going silent to push across the horrific nature of the abuse scenes and using a ticking clock “the "assault" scene played out to the amplified ticking clock” (Bradshaw, 2013:2) to demonstrate increased intensity of the murder scenes.
Figure 2. Waking up after hallucinated sex assault scene (1965)
Bradshaw, Peter. (2013) Repulsion. http://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/jan/03/repulsion-review (Accessed on 18/11/2014
Jenkins, David. (2012) Repulsion. http://www.littlewhitelies.co.uk/theatrical-reviews/repulsion-22822 (Accessed on 18/11/2014)
Sorrento, Matthew. (2009) Repulsion. http://www.filmthreat.com/reviews/11829/ (Accessed on 18/11/2014)
Figure 1: Polanski, N. (1965) Carole and her boyfriend [Still of Carole and boyfriend] Available from: http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/dvdcompare/repulsion-3.htm (Accessed on 18/11/2014)
Figure 2: Polanski, N. (1965) Waking up after hallucinated sex assault scene [Still of Carole] Available from: http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/dvdcompare/repulsion-3.htm (Accessed on 18/11/2014)