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Film / Repulsion

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Repulsion is a 1965 Psychological Horror film directed by Roman Polański, based on a scenario he wrote with Gérard Brach. It was Polanski's first English-language film, and was filmed in Britain, as such being his second film made outside of Poland. It's also the first film in his so-called "Apartment Trilogy" (followed by Rosemary's Baby and The Tenant).

Catherine Deneuve stars as Carol, a young Belgian manicurist who lives in London with her sister Helen. Carol seems generally nervous and fearful, particularly of men. When Helen decides to go on a holiday to Italy with her married boyfriend, Carol is left home alone for a few days. It doesn't turn out to be a very pleasant experience. Cooped up alone in the apartment, Carol's already unstable mind begins to crack.

This film provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Helen's reference to La Dolce Vita (the sweet life) on her postcard is a nod to the actress playing Helen, Yvonne Furneaux, who was also in the film of the same name.
  • All Men Are Perverts: Even seeming Nice Guy Colin has trouble respecting Carol's boundaries, and nearly ever other male in the film is lecherous, condescending, crude, unfaithful, or all of the above.
  • Angst Coma: Appears to be Carol's final fate; she's found under her bed, alive (her arm moves at one point), eyes open, but completely unresponsive.
  • Asshole Victim: It's pretty hard to feel that sorry for the landlord, who was more than happy to try to take advantage of an obviously fragile Carol and sexually assault her...if the assault did actually happen and wasn't another of Carol's paranoid hallucinations.
  • Blood Is Squicker in Water: Blood begins to pool in the water when Carol places Colin's corpse in the bathtub.
  • Book Ends: The film opens by zooming out of a tight closeup of Carol's eye. It ends with the camera zooming in on the photo of Carol as a child until it zooms in onto her eye.
  • The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes: Carol, the manicurist, bites her nails.
  • Cranky Landlord: The landlord. In addition to being cranky, he's also a creep who tries to force himself on Carol, Maybe.
  • Creator Cameo: Polanski dressed as a woman as one of the tenants coming into Carol's apartment at the end.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Implied for Carol's childhood
  • Does Not Like Men: Carol is either this, or just really, really afraid of them. Assuming that she had been raped as a child, it’s easy to see why she’s this way.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Really nastily subverted with Colin. He breaks down the door to the apartment, he says stuff about how he can't live without her and he had to see her, and she caves in his skull with a candlestick.
  • Epic Fail: Carol's attempt to hide the body and the murder weapon. It's also not noticeable at all that she overturned the sofa to hide her second body.
  • Eye Open: Starts with a tight closeup of Carol's eye as the entire opening credits roll by.
  • Fingore: Carol, gripped by some fit of mania, slices the finger of a customer she's supposed to be servicing at the beauty salon.
  • Freudian Excuse: Carol's implied reason for psychosis and murder.
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: Carol, apparently much quicker than most people. Then again, she doesn't seem to have been all that sane to begin with...
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Thankfully, we don't get to see what happened to Colin's body after a week or so in the tub filled with water. Poor Helen...
  • Gross-Up Close-Up: We get long, lingering looks at the food rotting in the apartment, including a whole rabbit. It's the sort of thing that makes you grateful for black and white photography.
  • Hair-Raising Hare: The skinned rabbit that Helen plans to cook and that Carol leaves sitting out in the living room.
  • Hates Being Touched: Carol flinches and shrinks from even the most innocent touch. A kiss is enough to send her running through traffic to get away. This only extends to men, however; she seems comfortable being touched by women.
  • Hate Sink: The landlord starts off as a mere greedy jerk, but when we see him again when Carol pays him her rent, his Slimeball characteristics come into full view as he pretends to emotionally comfort her before attempting to assault her, or so we're led to believe.
  • The Immodest Orgasm: One of the first things that disturbs Carol's obviously already fragile mental state is the sound of her sister moaning in pleasure from sex with her boyfriend.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Helen's callow boyfriend makes a remark about how Carol ought to see a doctor, which makes Helen immediately defensive. As much of a jerk as he is, he's right that Carol could really, really use a therapist.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: Although Helen is sometimes impatient with her sister, she's the only person Carol trusts. Her presence keeps Carol (barely) functional, and a week-long absence is enough to send Carol completely off the deep end.
  • Mind Screw: The viewer is put in Carol's position of never quite knowing what's really happening and what she's hallucinating.
  • Mirror Scare: The first sign that Carol is more than just shy and high-strung. She sees a reflection of a man in the mirror, but he isn't there when she turns around.
  • Mundane Horror: The main character starts experiencing weird hallucinations at her flat, including cracks in the walls and Alien Geometries.
  • One-Word Title: Repulsion
  • Paralyzing Fear of Sexuality: Taken to the extreme.
  • Quieter Than Silence: Carol almost never speaks, so when she's alone in the house, this is natural. However, special mention has to go to the Imagine Spots where a man breaks into her room and assaults her. All we hear in those scenes is a clock ticking.
  • The Quiet One: Carol fits this trope, to a T.
  • Rape as Backstory: Carol's implied childhood.
  • Rape Leads to Insanity: It's strongly implied, in the final shot, that Carol's mental problems stem from having been raped as a girl.
  • Sanity Slippage: The whole plot of the film. It's obvious that something's wrong with Carol by the 30-minute mark, when she sees a crack in the pavement and fixates on it, sitting on a bench and staring for over an hour. It gets worse from there.
  • Shout-Out: Carol's coworker Helen talks about having seen Charlie Chaplin's film The Gold Rush and even does an imitation of the Tramp.
  • Shrinking Violet: Carol is a shy, soft-spoken young woman who is clearly uncomfortable in social situations, especially around men.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: A confident, upbeat, cool jazz number plays as Carol walks the streets of London, looking anything but confident and upbeat.
  • Trash of the Titans: By the end of the movie, the apartment is an utter mess, with overturned furniture, trash strewn about, and rotting food. That's to say nothing of the corpses in the bathtub and living room.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Carol finds one of Michael's soiled undershirts on the bathroom floor. One curious sniff is all it takes for her to rush to the toilet to throw up.