Trelkovsky (Polanski) has just moved into a Paris apartment, where the previous tenant committed suicide by leaping to her death. Now, he's starting to think his new neighbors are trying to push him to the same act. As for the audience... well, we don't know what to think.
Released in 1976, this is the third film of Polanski's so-called "Apartment Trilogy", following Repulsion and Rosemary's Baby. It is also the last film he made prior to his arrest and conviction for statutory rape, and his subsequent flight from justice (and from the United States), a year later.
This film contains examples of:
- Bandage Mummy: Simone Choule, the unfortunate former tenant whose rooms Trelkovsky are taking over. She has a Bandaged Face as well as a leg and an arm in cast. Also Trelkovsky, in the end.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Trelkovsky is a quiet and unassuming man at first, but once he starts having his strange occurrences, he proves to be quite capable at snapping at anyone.
- Circle of Shame: The laughing crowd before Trelkovsky decides to jump.
- Creepy Crossdresser: Trelkovsky ends up getting made up as a woman. It certainly looks creepy on him.
- Driven to Suicide: Trelkovsky feels gaslighted by his neighbors up to the point where he can't take it anymore and jumps from his window.
- Eat the Camera: The last shot of the film has the camera descending into Trelkovsky's mouth as he screams in his hospital bed.
- The Film of the Book: Polanski adapted the script from a short novel by French humorist Roland Topor.
- Gainax Ending: Trelkovsky is bandaged up in the same fashion as Simone Choule in the same hospital bed, but we see his and Stella's own visit to Simone. Trelkovsky then lets out the same disturbing cry that Simone had screamed.
- Gaslighting: What Trelkovsky believes his neighbors are trying to do.
- Look Both Ways: Trelkovsky is hit at night by an elderly couple driving a car.
- Mind Screw: The protagonist observes increasingly weird events, including his neighbors standing in the toilet for hours, the toilet covered with Egyptian hieroglyphs, his neighbors playing football with a human head, and a double of himself standing at his apartment window. It is never made clear how much of this is a result of Sanity Slippage and how much is actually real.
- Mundane Horror: Basically the gist of the film (and the whole "apartment trilogy") is that the strange events take place in a mundane setting (an apartment building) and some of them, while weird, are in the realm of possibility (like his neighbors standing in the toilet for hours), although things get progressively weird as the film progresses.
- Paranoid Thriller: The protagonist gradually goes off his rails, believing that his neighbors are conspiring against him. It is never clarified whether it was all a delusion, or something sinister is really going on at the apartment complex.
- Sanity Slippage: The protagonist gradually goes off his rails, believing that his neighbors are conspiring against him. It is never clarified whether it was all a delusion, or something sinister is really going on at the apartment complex.
- Single-Issue Landlord: For Trelkovsky's landlord, Monsieur Zy, just don't make noise.
- The Tooth Hurts: Trelkovsky apparently pulls out two of his own teeth.
- Through the Eyes of Madness: It is pretty clearly established in the film that it is true for at least some incidents Trelkovsky sees as happening to him, but how many exactly is anyone's guess.
- Would Hurt a Child: An increasingly paranoid Trelkovsky slaps a crying little boy in a park.