|Fig 1. Repulsion (poster art)|
The film is described as 'an absolute masterpiece of psychological horror' by film critic, John Greco.
Carole shares her apartment with her sister until her sister leaves for an extended holiday. Once she is alone, Carole's vivid imagination takes over her life, eventually leading to paranoia and a psychosis that turns her into a twisted and tormented character.
A dark and chilling atmosphere pervades this film. From the outset and as a result of clever camera positioning, it is as if the apartment itself is a character. The camera is placed at ground level and records movements in a still, wide-angled, deep focus shot as Carol moves between rooms. As the camera moves through the apartment the rooms hide their contents until the camera finds them, causing an air of suspence and anticipation.
There is an uneasy sexual tension that exists throughout the film. At intervals during the film, the camera focuses on a family photograph from different distances. In one scene, the photograph is completely blacked out. However the shadows fall in such a way that a light appears to stretch from a man's mouth to Carole's crotch. This could suggest a sexual relationship between the man and Carole to the viewer.
The use of lighting in this way, is foreshadowing the storyline to the viewer.
The camera creates a cold, dark and miserable atmosphere by using close ups and wide angle shots. The film is set within a small, rundown apartment. Polanski is known for his ability to create a claustrophobic mood. This mood is reinforced by an apparent lack of sound. Except there are repetitive sounds that are heard and that punctuate the script. There is a ticking clock during an eerie imaginary rape scene. A school bell rings. dripping water can be heard, Nuns are laughing, flies are buzzing, footsteps can be heard and a piano is playing. Such sounds are enough to drive anyone mad because they are intrusive, annoying and aggravating, in the same way that Carole's intrusive thoughts cause her paranoia. It is interesting that these external sounds permeate to the inside of the apartment. Could this be indicative of the way in which external forces were penetrating Carole's mind and body?
The camera close ups of Carole make the viewer feel as if they know Carole intimately. There are perspective shots with Carole in the foreground but her back to the camera. Consequently it feels as though the other actors are looking past Carole and interacting directly with the viewer. A further example of the way n which the camera work draws you in and makes you believe you are inside Carole's head!
Cracking walls, overgrown potatoes and the disgusting, rotting rabbit corpse close ups seem to support the idea that Carole is cracking up and her mind, as she was knew it, was rotting away.
The film's ability to create space by using deep shadows and wide angled scenes, really defines the film. Although confined areas, the shadows expand the space in macabre ways. Yet, Polanski himself complained hat 'Repulsion is the shoddiest.......technically well below the standard I try to achieve'. However, it won critical acclaim from critics because the contemporary camera work spoke to audiences in a new way.
Figure 1. Repulsion (poster art) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0059646/ (Accessed on 26 November 2016)