Sunday 12 December 2010

Repulsion - Movie review

Repulsion - 1965
Director - Roman Polanski

1) Repulsion UK movie poster

Plot Summary / Review:

Carol Ledoux (Catherine Deneuve) is a beautiful but somewhat emotionally distant Belgian girl living in London with her sister, Helen (Yvonne Furneaux). Working as a beautician she absent mindedly wanders the streets of London, ogled by working and upper class men alike.

2) Carol

At the start of the film, Carol is pursued by an English gentlemen Colin, (John Fraser) desperate to go on a date with her, she seemingly fights her urges but does agree to go on a date with him. She returns home to find Helen's lovers razor and toothbrush in her glass, another male which she seems to find repulsive. Helen's lover Michael (Ian Hendry) is in fact a married man which could explain Carol's unfriendly approach to him,  not helped in an especially awkward scene where she has to lay in bed listening to them making love next door. "Polanski never turns his film into a misogynist binge: the men she meets are far from sympathetically portrayed, and we are led to understand her fear and revulsion by the surreal expressionism used to portray her mental state." Andrew, 2006.

Helen and Michael decide to go to Italy for a holiday, leaving Carol in the apartment by herself. It's in her solitude that Carol's mental health begins to deteriorate and Polanski embellishes the audience with haunting symbolism. A rabbit carcass intended to be cooked by Carol but forgotten about is infested with flys and mould, horrific nightmare sequences where Carol is raped and stalked in the flat. The apartment itself begins to crack and crumble around her and comes alive with hands jumping out from the walls, groping and reaching her, symbolising her fragile mind and fear of sexual contact. "Mr. Polanski builds a towering drama with a skillful mesh of incidental stimuli. The dressed carcass of a rabbit on a platter becomes a monstrous symbol as the picture goes along. Small cracks in the walls of the apartment flow into crunching indicators of the heroine's crumbling mind." Crowther, 1965.

3) Cracked mind

4) Groping walls

5) Hallway hands

Carol falls deeper into madness, daydreaming at work, cutting a client and ultimately being fired. She distances herself further from society, disconnecting the phone after taking a call from Michaels wife intended for her adulterous sister. Colin goes to the apartment concerned for her well being. After breaking down the door, Carol kills him with a candle holder, dragging his lifeless body into the bath tub.

6) Colin and Carol

The Landlord, chasing payment for the apartment, lets himself into the flat and interprets Carols scantily clad appearance as a sexual invitation. Carol slashes him to death with Michaels razor and leaves him to die underneath the over turned sofa. Helen and Michael return from their holiday and find the bloody mess and Helen underneath the bed in a trance like state. They call the police and seemingly carry her off to the mental hospital.

Polanski never directly tells the audience but heavily suggests that Carol was the subject of some form of child abuse, poignantly advocated in the final shot of a family photograph of Carol as a child looking away from the men in the picture. Polanski has delivered a true classic which is both a psychological thriller and a horror film, in many ways superior to other horror films of the times, namely Alfred Hitchcocks "Psycho". "Hitchcock ends the film (Pyscho) with a lecture on why Norman is mad, but Polanski just closes in on a family photograph to drop hints about the roots of the blonde angel’s insanity."  Newman, 2007.


Andrew, Geoff. Time Out review 9th February 2006 Accessed 11/12/10

Crowther, Bosley. New York Times review 4th October 1965 Accessed 11/12/10

Newman, Kim. Empire magazine review 21st September 2007 Accessed 11/12/10


1) Repulsion Poster - accessed 11/12/10

2) Carol - accessed 11/12/10

3) Cracked Mind - accessed 11/12/10

4) Groping walls - accessed 11/12/10

5) Hallway hands - accessed 11/12/10

6) Colin and Carol - accessed 11/12/10


  1. another lucid, poised review, Paul - and the last quote about Psycho is absolutely on-the-money. I'll be showing Psycho as part of Unit 4; the ending of that movie always feels too 'explained' - perhaps it's a European/American thing?

    Oh - picky alert - you need to put your Harvard citations in round brackets ( ) - and you're missing an apostrophe on 'Michaels' (Michael's...)

  2. Interim Online Review 14/12/2010

    Hey Paul,

    I'm worried about you, I guess. There's never the creative activity on your blog I expect from someone with your potential - that's not to presume that your sitting on your hands doing nothing - but I just worry that you're not as engaged as I'd like you to be. There's not much practical assistance I can offer you on the strength of what's (not) on here in time for the IOR. I'd like you to email me and let me know how you're doing and if there's anything further I can do, or anything I should know about - or, frankly, if you just want to get something off your chest (even if it's to say Eraserhead - wtf!). My email is - drop me a line and reassure me that all is well with you (or otherwise).

    More specifically, follow this link for some guidance notes re. the Unit 3 written assignment: