Today’s Gore Girls pick is the Catherine Deneuve-starring Roman Polanski classic, “Repulsion,” the director’s first English-language film. The story follows Carol (Deneuve), a sexually repressed young woman who suffers a psychotic break after her sister/roommate leaves her all alone in her apartment for a weekend. This isn’t traditional horror, certainly not by today’s standards, but I’ll let Jenni & Terri give you the scoop.
Terri: This was my first real Roman Polanski film (of his work, I’ve only seen “The Ninth Gate,” I’m ashamed to admit) but I went into it excited and apprehensive of what to expect.
Jenni: I am pretty sure I watched it in college and fell asleep. I didn’t this time, obviously! I love Catherine Deneuve, and I think she’s perfect for this part. I also like the way “Repulsion” starts in the middle of a story. Her character is already in this daze, and we’re not sure why, and slowly she begins to crack. And it’s hinted at why at the end — I mean, it doesn’t take a PhD to realize she was probably sexually abused at some point in her life — but the way he portrays her breakdown is very effective. Especially with the use of sound and music.
Terri: I wasn’t so much scared when I watched the film (though it got a jump out of me in the scene where she closes her door with a mirror on it and you see a reflection of a man in it) but I thought the topic of it was super interesting: this idea of her repulsion.
Jenni: Now people who seek out this movie — I mean, it’s new on Criterion — they know who she is and Polanski and it was before Sharon Tate was murdered, so there’s that echo as well to modern viewers.
Terri: What did you think as far as the psychological/thriller aspect of the film? What works now?
Jenni: I think it all works, if you have the patience. I did not in college, heh. The camera angles, the use of music, it’s just very tense and makes you feel like you are in the middle of a breakdown as well. The terror of being alone in your home. And then add in her own paranoia and hallucinations, her break from reality. I mean, the skinned rabbit that she just leaves out! It looks like the baby from David Lynch’s “Eraserhead.”
Terri: And then puts its rotten head in her purse! But so much of the film contains no dialogue and is just visual, which I liked. A lot of varying ideas were covered, sexuality and abuse and mental deterioration, but it is up to the viewer to take out of it what they will.
Jenni: True. But we should probably wrap this up. I feel like we could go on for ages on Polanski and women! Obviously, this was really different from the other movies so far. Did you like it more or less than the other movies we’ve seen?
Terri: It was one of the better ones that I’ve seen. I like a film that makes you think, and I thought this had a lot more thought-provoking ideas; it wasn’t just trying to elicit scares. I think what’s best about it is we can keep having this discussion; it gives us something to talk about after the fact! Would you say that sense of having the audience think for themselves is lost in psychological thrillers nowadays? Or have they taken something from “Repulsion?
Jenni: At the risk of sounding like a snob, it is definitely going to be more interesting to someone who really wants to think about a film afterwards. I think the Criterion release is pretty awesome, and I really want to watch the extras. What’s funny is that when “Repulsion” was released, it wasn’t this big fancy art film. It was just some horror flick. By today’s standards, if no one is getting their fingernails ripped off, it’s not horror. I mean, it’s not a perfect movie, and I don’t think there’s a need to completely worship Polanski, but it’s an effective, smart horror movie.
Terri: Ahh! I hate fingernail horror!
Jenni: Yeah, fingernails are the worst.