Saturday, 28 November 2015

Space Oddities | Film Review | Repulsion

Repulsion (1965 film poster).jpg
Fig 1. Repulsion Film Poster
Roman Polanski's repulsion (1964) is a film deemed to be a psychological horror film in which involves the main character carol who is clearly mentally ill and the deterioration of her sanity and mind is becoming ever greater as the progresses. Her mental state truly comes spiraling down when carol's sister Helen (See Fig 2.) leaves to visit Pisa with her "boyfriend" who is also married to another woman.

Fig 2. Helen Reassuring Carol

Carol fear and eventual mental deterioration comes from the fear of men and their lust that they have for her as Peter Bradshaw explains "her fear of sex develops into a neurotic fascination and horror of dust and dirt of all kinds, a condition that escalates into agoraphobia and paranoid episodes" ( Peter Bradshaw 2013 ). There is many issues that can justify these feelings, for instance each and every man that Carol comes to meet seem to be 'forceful' upon her. The first example would be Colin, who is Carol's admirer and later on breaks her door down to see her, Carol in return kills him with a candle holder. The second example would be the landlord who becomes confrontational about the late rent payments and goes onto attempt to sexually assault Carol until Carol cuts him up with a cutthroat razor. Carol cannot even escape the tight grip of her fears, even in her dreams. As in her dreams she regularly is sexually assaulted by a blacked out figure, this happens about three times throughout the movie. It's really saddening to know that there's a point her mental state is that far gone that there is a scene where she even applies red lipstick to herself before she sleeps, it's almost as if she is preparing herself for the repeating nightmare that she knows she will have. 

Fig 3. Carol's Flat walls beginning to crack and rupture

Through brilliant set design Roman Polanski manages to use the flat as a symbol for Carol ever fading mental state. This begins when Helen leaves home, which backs up the fact that she clearly relies on Helen and cannot cope without her. That's why when she is left for what is in Carol's mind as a long time things that her flat crumbles and breaks much like her mind. "Small cracks in the walls of the apartment flow into crunching indicators of the heroine's crumbling mind" (Bosley Crowther 1965) (See Fig 3), the walls become much like putty, male hand protruding out of the putty like wall trying to grab Carol. At the same time other things are deteriorating/going  to suggest the deterioration of Carol's mind, As Elaine Macintyre iterates "A skinned rabbit from the fridge is left out in the living room to rot and gather flies whilst potatoes sprout eyes in the kitchen* and the bath overflows and floods the floor." (Elaine Macintyre 2014) 
*(See Fig 4)

Fig 4. Rotting Dead Rabbit abandoned by Carol 
It's quite clear that Carol's mind state has not been like this for a small amount of time. This can be suggested from the family photograph which is showed, in this photo it can be seen that Carol is clearly hollow and is only looking directly at a male figure that could be her father or another male family member. This could mean that her fears come from being sexually abused as a child by a male family. Another signifier of this is that in the film it is admitted that Helen and Carol used to live in Belgium, therefore either her parents/family have passed away or they were forced to move away for their own safety. 

Overall it's clear that Roman Polanski's depiction of a frayed and unstable mind of a woman who has intimacy fears is truly brilliant and the use of imagery and subtle symbolism mixes together to make a great feature.


Bradshaw, P. (2013) Repulsion review. At: Accessed (27/11/2015)

Crowther, B. (1965) Repulsion. At:// Accessed (27/11/2015)

Macintyre, E. (2014) Repulsion. At: Accessed (27/11/2015)

Image Sources 

Figure 1: Repulsion Film Poster (1964) [Poster] At: Accessed (27/11/2015)

Figure 2: Helen Reassuring Carol (1964) [Film Screenshot] At; Accessed (27/11/2015)

Figure 3. Walls cracking in Carol's flat (1964) [Film Screenshot] At: Accessed (27/11/2015)

Figure 4. Rotting dead rabbit abandoned by Carol (1964) [Film Screenshot] At: Accessed (27/11/2015)

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