This Month in Film History – June 11, 1965: Unappreciated Polanski Gem “Repulsion” Debuts in London

On June 11, 1965, the British public got first look at the kind of cinema a young, Parisian born lad named Roman Polanski had to offer. The film, shot in London, entitled Repulsion, starred another relative newcomer, a beautiful young French woman named Catherine Deneuve. The film would only be Polanski’s second feature film but both his debut,  made in his parents home country of Poland, Knife in the Water, and his first English language film  Repulsion, suggested that  Polanski’s future in film looked pretty good.

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The plot of Repulsion is very simple. Wikipedia describes the plot as such:

(…)a young withdrawn woman who finds sexual advances repulsive and who, after she is left alone by her vacationing sister, becomes even more isolated and detached from reality.

Both Polanski and his leading lady would take the story and would breath a terror that the text could only suggest. Polanski lures his viewers in with an old Alfred Hitchcock trick – hire a beautiful blonde woman and let the camera lust, leer and ultimately fall in love with his lead.

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However breathtaking or awe inspiring her beauty may be, it is a sinister trap that preys on the weak minded  of the male species; yet the strong fare no better. They stand on the pomposity of good breeding, which becomes their undoing.

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Polanski adeptly turns the screw on Catherine Deneuve’s character, Carol’s fragile psyche. Where Polanski succeeds is he leers the viewer into the middle of Carol’s breakdown and we get throttled along with her.

All the while, reality calls to Carol in the form of Colin, played by John Fraser. He confesses his adoration for her but Carol doesn’t believe him. She kills Colin by bludgeoning him to death with an antique candlestick after he breaks into Carol’s apartment to confess his feelings for her.

Carol’s imagination has made her machinations a reality. Now, the only thing left is the human representation of her dementia, the sleazy landlord who always harasses her for  the rent.

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He sexually assaults her. When he comes back for more, Carol kills him with a razor blade.

But  what did we actually discover?

Carol had to fight for her life?

Did these men actually attack her?

Did she just snap and start killing, tightly gripped by her troubled mind?

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