Saturday, 3 December 2016

“Repulsion” (1965)

Fig. 1 "Repulsion" Poster

“Repulsion” is a psychological black and white horror film directed by Roman Polanski in 1965.  It was first English-language film produced by Polanski. The film's story focuses on a young woman, Carol Ledoux, who is left alone by her sister, Helen, at their apartment. As her sister is away on vacation, Carols phobia of men makes her go fully insane. “Repulsion” perfectly pictures how world can be visually changed by characters’ mentality.

Fig. 2 Carol biting nails

The film has a strong swinging 60s feeling in it. Jazzy music, new stunning fashion, significant flip in the sexual revolution as the women started to control their sexual lives with contraceptive pills. This period of time wasn’t meant for Belgium girl to witness and experience. The viewer is put to experience Carols unbelievable and shocking madness. The environment changes alongside with Carols mental stability. In the beginning, everything might seem normal, young Belgium girl working in a beauty salon and getting all men's attention. Although, everything seems casual there are many hints showing that something is wrong with Carol. As Viola explains in his review: “All these leering, groping males make her flesh crawl, causing her to twitch and wipe at her face and body as if to rid herself of some dread disease transmitted by men” (Viola M., 2008) Distressed Carol starts biting her nails and hair, this shows that the main character is feeling uncomfortable being close to a male character.(Fig.2)

Fig.3 Crack on the wall

As her madness progresses the surroundings begin to change. Cracks appear on the apartment walls, rooms become bigger, she starts walking in circles at some point, this reveals how Carol’s mind is drifting away from the mental sanity state.(Fig.3) As Smalley discusses in his review: "... Carole is left alone in the creaky, haunted apartment, our focus suddenly shifts from looking at Carole to seeing the world through her eyes." (Smalley, 2008)

Fig. 4 Hands coming from the walls
Terrifying manly, dead-alike hands emerge from walls, grabbing onto Carol's body, displays that this character was harassed by a man once.(Fig.4) At that moment the viewer is left to wonder what might happen to her with this crippling mind full of delusions. Following event Carol seems to have accepted her fate and treats it as a normal state. In the scene when she uses lipstick shows that she has silently accepted her insanity.

Furthermore, “Repulsion” has a mixture of typical horror sounds and uncommon, disturbing silence. However, silence is also used to intensify the horror in some scenes, when the young woman is violated by hallucinations, making the audience feel terrified and not letting the viewer rest even for a moment. Only the clock ticking is left in the background, as if the main character would be counting every second of her assault. As Scheib's explains:" Sound effects are used, particularly well throughout" (Scheib, 2012) 


In conclusion, “Repulsion” will leave you haunted from the hysterical view of a sexual scared individual, with scenes of sexual assault and mental breakdowns which is reflected by the environment.(Fig.5) Despite the fact that “Repulsion” is a black and white film, it's visually stunning and satisfying to watch.


Smalley G. (2008), REPULSION (1965) At: (Accessed on 03/12/2016)

Scheib R. (2012) REPULSION At: (Accessed on 03/12/2016)

Viola M. (2008) REPULSION (ROMAN POLANSKI, 1965). At: (Accessed on 03/12/2016)

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  1. Interesting review Karolina.
    Just be careful that you explain yourself fully to your reader; you say, for example,'In the scene when she uses lipstick shows that she has silently accepted her insanity'- how does this show her acceptance? Do you think it is her insanity that she has accepted?

    Have another look back at the referencing guide to see what you need for the illustrations list, as there a few elements missing...

    1. Thanks for pointing that out! I felt that there was something wrong with that sentence and that it didn't lead to any proper conclusion of "how and why".