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  • Writer's pictureAllan Major

Repulsion 1965 Reviewed

Featured Image For Repulsion 1965 Reviewed.  The vintage poster for "Repulsion" features multiple expressions of Catherine Deneuve’s face showing terror and confusion, with a large, menacing straight razor and a tagline speaking to a virgin's nightmares becoming reality.
In the mirror of her mind, the blade of madness reflects a reality too sharp and harrowing to escape.

London, a city of endless rain and shadowed alleys, has become the breeding ground for a terror far more sinister than Jack the Ripper. It's a terror that lurks not in the fog, but within the fractured mind of a young woman named Carol. Roman Polanski's 1965 psychological thriller "Repulsion" drags us down the rabbit hole of the psyche, where the walls bleed, and nightmares seep into the stark light of day.

Repulsion 1965 Key Takeaways

  • The Unsettling Power of the Mind: "Repulsion" demonstrates the terrifying destructive potential of a fracturing psyche. Carol's mental disintegration creates a world far more horrifying than any external threat.

  • The Horror of the Ordinary: Unlike many horror films, "Repulsion" finds terror not in the supernatural, but in the mundane. Everyday objects and sounds, twisted through Carol's paranoia, become monstrous.

  • Isolation as a Destructive Force: Carol's isolation fuels her descent. Left alone in her flat, her fears magnify, and the boundaries between reality and delusion dissolve.

  • Sound Design as a Terror Tool: Polanski masterfully uses sound to amplify the psychological tension. Ticking clocks, footsteps, and warped noises evoke the disorientation Carol experiences.

  • The Ambiguity of the Ending: The film's conclusion leaves Carol's fate uncertain. This open ending forces the viewer to confront the lingering horror and the possibility that, for Carol, there may be no escape from her inner demons.

  • Male Violence as a Catalyst: Although largely unseen, the specter of male violence hangs over the film. Carol's androphobia likely stems from past trauma, contributing to her psychological unraveling.

Woman with a look of intense fear while watching Repulsion.
It wasn't the movie that terrified her, it was her own reflection in the darkened screen.

Let's dive into the decaying apartment, the echoing footsteps, and the fractured sanity, and see why this claustrophobic horror masterpiece remains a landmark of cinematic terror.

Catherine Deneuve portrays Carol, a Belgian manicurist adrift in the unforgiving heart of London. She shares a flat with her sister, Helen (Yvonne Furneaux), and Helen's married lover, Michael (Ian Hendry). Deneuve's doe eyes reveal not a spark of girlish innocence, but a chilling vacancy, as if her soul has already fled this world. She is plagued by androphobia – a deep-seated fear and aversion to men. Think of an open wound left to fester in a world reeking of testosterone and predatory eyes.

When Helen and Michael go on an Italian holiday, this fragile porcelain doll cracks. Carol withdraws, left alone, a prisoner of her London flat and her own disintegrating mind. Repulsion isn't a film filled with jump scares and blood splatter. The true terror is far more insidious. Every creak of the floorboards, the rhythmic drip of a faucet, the peeling wallpaper, all become weapons in Polanski's arsenal of psychological horror.

The film's unsettling brilliance lies in how Polanski forces us inside Carol's unraveling world. Cinematographer Gilbert Taylor paints a stark, disorienting landscape. Shadows loom as large as monsters, reflections distort and torment. The outside world intrudes with unwanted phone calls and the muffled sounds of everyday life, each ring of the doorbell sending Carol spiraling deeper into paranoia.

Man watching Repulsion with a disturbed expression.
He thought he understood madness. The movie was teaching him otherwise.

A Dark Vision From Roman Polanski

We witness her hallucinations, the repulsive touch of a disembodied hand bursting through the wall, cracks in the concrete bleeding into demonic faces. As Carol descends, we descend with her– unable to tear ourselves away from the grotesque allure of her madness.

The film's brutality isn’t just visual. Polanski utilizes sound in a deeply unsettling way, an aural assault that echoes Carol's fracturing sanity. The relentless ticking of a clock morphs into a pounding heartbeat. Footsteps echo in the empty halls of her apartment, fueling an unbearable sense of a looming intruder.

By the time the violence erupts, it's less shocking, and more an inevitable release from the unbearable pressure building throughout the film. But this isn't some cathartic action sequence. The violence is raw, ugly, further cementing the film's sense of claustrophobic despair. Carol, the delicate manicurist, becomes an avenging fury, but in victory, there is only emptiness.

"Repulsion" doesn't neatly resolve itself. Carol's fate dangles by a thread, her sanity shattered in a kaleidoscope of blood and peeling wallpaper. The final image haunts you, a stark reminder of the fragile boundary between the waking world and the horrors that fester beneath the surface of a seemingly ordinary life.

Polanski's film is a masterwork of unsettling claustrophobia, an enduring and deeply disturbing look into the fractured psyche of a woman on the edge. If "Repulsion" leaves you breathless and sick at heart, then it has succeeded. For this is not mere entertainment, it is the horror of the everyday, a warped mirror reflecting back the demons we sometimes find lurking just beneath the surface of our own realities.

And that is Repulsion 1965 Reviewed. Another classic horror movie that everyone should check out. 

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If You Liked Repulsion 1965 You Might Also Like These Films

  • Rosemary's Baby (1968): Another masterpiece by Roman Polanski. A young woman moves into a New York apartment with her husband and becomes convinced that her neighbors are part of a satanic cult plotting against her and her unborn child. Like "Repulsion", the film masterfully builds paranoia and ambiguity, blurring the lines between reality and delusion.

  • The Tenant (1976): The final part of Polanski's "Apartment Trilogy" (of which "Repulsion" is the first). This film follows a meek office worker who moves into a Paris apartment where the previous tenant committed suicide. He slowly descends into madness, convinced his neighbors are conspiring against him, mirroring Carol's paranoia in "Repulsion".

  • Persona (1966): A Swedish film by the legendary director Ingmar Bergman. A young nurse is tasked with caring for a famous actress who has inexplicably gone mute. Their identities begin to blur in this mesmerizing and unsettling exploration of the psyche, isolation, and female identity. It shares a similar focus on female psychological breakdown as "Repulsion".

  • The Babadook (2014): An Australian horror film that delves into the darkness of grief and trauma. A widowed mother and her troubled son are haunted by a monstrous entity from a children's book. Like "Repulsion", the film's true horror lies within the characters' minds, as repressed emotions manifest in terrifying ways.

  • Black Swan (2010): Darren Aronofsky's psychological thriller about a ballet dancer consumed by her dark side while preparing for the lead role in "Swan Lake". The film shares "Repulsion's" themes of the destructive power of the psyche, as ambition and mental instability push the protagonist down a dark path.

Repulsion 1965 Reviewed FAQs

Q: What is "Repulsion" about? 

A: "Repulsion" is a psychological horror film directed by Roman Polanski, following the story of a beautiful young Belgian manicurist named Carol (Catherine Deneuve) living in London. Suffering from androphobia (a fear of men) and likely past trauma, Carol's mental state rapidly deteriorates when her older sister Helen (Yvonne Furneaux) leaves on a holiday with her boyfriend. Left alone, Carol isolates herself and descends into madness, experiencing horrifying hallucinations, paranoia, and ultimately perpetrating violent acts.

Q: Who is the director of "Repulsion"? 

A: "Repulsion" was directed by Roman Polanski. This was his first English-language film after gaining acclaim with his debut feature, "Knife in the Water" (1962), which was nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.

Q: How is the cinematography in "Repulsion"? 

A: The cinematography in "Repulsion", expertly executed by Gilbert Taylor, is a vital component of the film's terrifying atmosphere. Stark contrasts, claustrophobic framing, disorienting angles, and lingering shots on decaying details within Carol's apartment reflect her deteriorating mindset. The film's visual style greatly amplifies its psychological horror.

Q: What is the significance of Carol's character in "Repulsion"? 

A: Carol, played by Catherine Deneuve, is the film's heart of darkness. Her fragile beauty and chilling vacancy mask a deep psychological disturbance. Her androphobia hints at a past trauma, possibly sexual in nature, which drives her paranoia and violent outbursts. Carol's character is a complex exploration of the destructive power of the unhealed mind.

Q: Is "Repulsion" considered one of Polanski's best films?

 A: Yes, "Repulsion" is widely considered one of Roman Polanski's finest and most disturbing works. It solidified his reputation as a master of psychological horror and suspense, paving the way for later successes like "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Tenant".

Q: What are some key themes portrayed in "Repulsion"? 

A: "Repulsion" explores themes of:

  • Isolation: Carol's isolation fuels her descent into madness, emphasizing the detrimental impact of loneliness on mental well-being.

  • Mental Illness: The film provides a stark and disturbing portrayal of mental illness, potentially schizophrenia, and its devastating consequences.

  • Fear and Repression: Carol's androphobia is heavily implied to be a result of past sexual trauma. The film acts as a chilling exploration of repressed trauma and its destructive potential.

  • Sexual Violence: While not graphically depicted, the threat of male sexual violence looms over the film, contributing to Carol's paranoia and eventual acts of violence.

Q: Where can I find more information about "Repulsion"? 

A: You can find more information about "Repulsion" on websites like:

  • IMDb

  • Film criticism websites: Websites like Roger Ebert, or publications like Sight & Sound often carry in-depth reviews and analysis.

  • Roman Polanski's biography: Polanski's own writings may offer insight into his creative process behind "Repulsion".

Q: What makes "Repulsion" a scary movie? 

A: "Repulsion" creates a chilling atmosphere through several techniques:

  • Psychological Focus: The film's horror lies in Carol's internal world, making her paranoia and hallucinations more unsettling than external threats.

  • Sound Design: Distorted noises, insistent ticking clocks, and intrusive sounds amplify Carol's deteriorating mental state.

  • Unsettling Ambiguity: The film leaves much unexplained, including the origins of Carol's trauma and her ultimate fate, adding to the lingering unease.


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