“I must get this crack mended”: Repulsion (1965)


Known to probe into the depths of human psychology (and psychosis), in Repulsion, Roman Polanski weaves a tale of mounting horrors suffered by the heroine – a beautiful, sex-repressed French girl living in London – from a state of mental woe into a stage of dithering madness and then to the dark extremity of murdering a brace of fellows who happen into the lonely apartment in which she is hidden.
Catherine Deneuve is remarkable in the central role of Carol – secretive in nursing her obsession, and starkly sad in her insanity. Suffering from an intense androphobia, she is repelled by the thought of men. This is aggravated by the lustful lover of her older sister with whom she shares a London flat and the story goes on to show how she how she murders, first, her innocent suitor and then the lecherous landlord when they unwittingly invade the fetid place.
Simultaneously attracted and repelled by sex, she is a virgin who finds her sister’s relationship with her married lover, extremely disturbing. Distortions in the rooms of the apartment tacitly reveal her mental state and we witness the slow psychological disintegration of a young woman plagued by her inner demons as she wages a futile battle against dementia, triggered by the intense loneliness that is at the core of her being. Within the tempest of violence and horror in this film, Polanski has achieved a haunting concept of the pain and pathos of the mentally deranged.
This definitely has to be one of the most compelling thrillers that I have seen. I found it very stifling and the sheer morbidity of it gave me goosebumps. This film is part of Polanski’s Apartment Trilogy (the others being The Tenant and Rosemary’s Baby) and most of the gruesome occurrings happen indoors, adding a very claustrophobic air to the already grim film. Brilliant job done by Deneuve, who brings out the trauma of isolation without the aid of much dialogue.
Here’s the trailer: