Repulsion (1965)

Repulsion
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Director: Roman Polanski
Actors: Catherine Deneuve, Renee Houston, Helen Fraser, Ian Hendry, James Villiers, Patrick Wymark, Yvonne Furneaux, John Fraser, Imogen Graham, Hugh Futcher, Monica Merlin, Mike Pratt, Valerie Taylor

Repulsion marked Polanski’s move from predominantly Absurdist influences to an aesthetic more closely related to Surrealism and psychoanalysis. Filmed in England in 1965, it was co-written by Roman Polanksi and long time collaborator Gérard Brach. The film deals with sexual repression, the thin line between victim and victimiser and the demanding nature of modern social conventions.

An outstanding performance by Catherine Deneuve, together with a spirited supporting cast and a snapshot of “Swinging London” in the mid 1960s, make this one of Polanski’s masterpieces.

DVD
Status: LongWait
Run time: 104mins
Origin: UNITED KINGDOM
Aspect Ratio:
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Repulsion
by Simon Miraudo,

“Poor little girl. All by herself. All shaking like a little frightened animal.” When we first meet Belgian manicurist Carole (Catherine Deneuve), she appears to be a little … absent minded. What at first seem like daydreams, are soon revealed to be the early signs of madness. She lives with her sister Helen (Yvonne Furneaux) in London, in a flat that is frequented by Helen’s married lover (Ian Hendry). Carole opposes Helen’s affair. In fact, she seems to oppose men in general, including (but not limited to) the man after her own affections (John Fraser) and her domineering landlord (Patrick Wymark). Despite Carole’s pleas, Helen absconds to Italy with her partner for a romantic interlude. Almost immediately, Carole is tormented by ghoulish beasts, both real and imagined. What follows is 8...

“Poor little girl. All by herself. All shaking like a little frightened animal.” When we first meet Belgian manicurist Carole (Catherine Deneuve), she appears to be a little … absent minded. What at first seem like daydreams, are soon revealed to be the early signs of madness. She lives with her sister Helen (Yvonne Furneaux) in London, in a flat that is frequented by Helen’s married lover (Ian Hendry). Carole opposes Helen’s affair. In fact, she seems to oppose men in general, including (but not limited to) the man after her own affections (John Fraser) and her domineering landlord (Patrick Wymark). Despite Carole’s pleas, Helen absconds to Italy with her partner for a romantic interlude. Almost immediately, Carole is tormented by ghoulish beasts, both real and imagined. What follows is 80 minutes of relentless, slow-burn horror.

Roman Polanski’s Repulsion’s closest relatives are David Lynch’s Eraserhead (a picture that was clearly inspired by Polanski’s unsettling use of imagery) and Lars von Trier’s Antichrist (which similarly features a female protagonist driven to madness by the sexual cruelty of the men in her life). The young Catherine Deneuve (she was 22 at the time of filming) gives a performance so unsettling and so precise, I can barely believe she grew into such a confident screen presence. And although Polanski spoke about this film’s technical imperfections, I think he should go easy on himself. Few directors are bold enough to commit to a 100-minute character study with absolutely no plot. Besides, Polanski has plenty of other things to feel guilty about…

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Member Reviews (15)

nowun
says
Hard to believe polanski ever got another job after the aptly named repulsion. Managed to fail in several genres simultaneously.
Posted Wednesday, 11 January 2012 See my other reviews
Clouseau
says
I completed disagree with the other reviews. I found it to be a painful tedious watch. Who wants to sit there watching a young woman sinking into the depths of mental illness. I found it to be depressing and I struggled with it. It certainly is not a classic. You don't see it in too many 'best of lists'.
Posted Saturday, 12 February 2011 See my other reviews
John F.
says
Another from my 'always wanted to see list' and it was worth the wait. Catherine Deneuve is terrific and the murder quite horrifying.
Posted Tuesday, 3 June 2008 See my other reviews
John N.
says
A painfully shy manicurist has trouble concentrating at work and frequently takes time off for no apparent reason. She is particularly fearful of men who try to be familiar or offer to take her out. When her sister, with whom she shares a flat and who is normally there to boost her confidence, goes away on holiday, she lacks the will to face life and shuts herself in her flat. Loneliness and her own fears pry on her mind and she begins to have delusions; a crack in the wall will open up or an intruder will burst in. These imaginings happen unexpectedly and with stunning effect as Polanski creates an eery atmosphere using the camera to roam stealthily round the flat picking out strange objects, but always returning to the woman to reveal her state of mind. Catherine Deneuve plays the part of the woman with cool detachment, only to blaze into action when seriously threatened. This movie maintains a degree of suspense that has probably never been surpassed.
Posted Sunday, 1 June 2008 See my other reviews
ka-tet
says
Well made with, Polanski using the camera to give a unique perspective from the protagonist point of view. Treating her with care Polanski makes all to real her sense of isolation depression and anxiety, highlighting the true terror of mental illness. More than that he shows for the most the wider world is willing to care but can't seem to reach someone who can't explain what's wrong. In contrast to the wider community her immediate caregiver is oblivious leaving her mentally ill sister at home to go on holidays. The final fade out to the young Carols photograph is chilling and rightfully earns the movie classic status.
Posted Monday, 10 March 2008 See my other reviews
Matt T.
says
Posted Sunday, 2 December 2007 See my other reviews
Dan M.
says
A brilliant, dark and disturbing psychological portrait film... great photography, performances and direction. This rates in my top 5 films of all time.
Posted Friday, 19 October 2007 See my other reviews
David S.
says
I first saw this movie in 1971 and found it quite scarey. I don't know how well the horror aspect works these days. You'll have to ask a first time viewer if they were scared. As a movie classic and as a document of a young woman's descent into psychosis, it is timeless and a must-see!
Posted Monday, 27 August 2007 See my other reviews
willow
says
Roman Polanski's first English language film is a stunner. A mature and realistic depiction of a young womans descent into paranoia and psychosis. Catherine Denevue is great as the girl losing her grip on reality, she is front and centre for the majority of the film and is totally mesmerising. The film is genuinely creepy and unsettling and downright scary in parts.
Posted Wednesday, 7 February 2007 See my other reviews
Arthur K.
says
Posted Tuesday, 17 October 2006 See my other reviews
Margaret B.
says
Gripping!!
Posted Monday, 1 May 2006 See my other reviews
Peter B.
says
Didn't quite work for me. By the end I still didn't know what was 'biting ' the girl, what was her sexual hangup. Good black and white camera work though. Interesting how this good looking girl working in the beauty industry could live in such squallor.
Posted Thursday, 16 February 2006 See my other reviews
Charles T.
says
Posted Monday, 6 February 2006 See my other reviews
Pol Dominic M.
says
Slow and atmospheric, this is almost like a silent film. Much of the second act is the camera trailing Deneuve in a flat on her own, as she slowly cracks up: no dialogue, no other characters except the fears of her mind. Don't expect a slasher film or anything like most of the horror genre on this site. This is an internal film that maps the developing insanity of a woman in a state of anomie. The closing shot gives some idea as to the genesis of her state of mind.
Posted Sunday, 27 November 2005 See my other reviews
Tim McMahon
says
Laconic to the point of torpor.
Posted Monday, 20 December 2004 See my other reviews
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