I'm not even 3 minutes into Repulsion and I already know that I'm going to love it. I know this because it takes its time and lately I feel like I need to take mine. I feel like I've been pushed into this fast paced, high adrenaline type of movie watching lately. I feel like I just keep watching and watching movies---and barely take them in. When was the last time I felt true meaning coming from the TV screen? In those quiet and strangely tense opening moments, I suddenly felt like being silent. Repulsion forces you into this bubble of deep focus almost immediately--- and it does it literally, by focusing on Carole's eye.
I don't usually get so embarrassingly poetic when I talk about movies but here I can't seem to help it. I just can't get past that opening moment.
Carole sits calmly, rigidly and peacefully holding a woman's hand. Everything about it screams sadness. Is the woman dying? Is she already dead? It's filmed in such a beautiful way. And then suddenly....we are pulled into reality. Carole is a beautician who has fallen asleep while performing a manicure. It's the kind of scene that makes me wish I had thought of it first. So simple, so surprising, so oddly remarkable. The scene was attacked with slowness. It takes its time establishing its beauty instead of forcing it on us in a miraculous instance. Even my favorite film--Suspiria rushes into the beauty by splaying it across our eyes while here, it's like waiting for the dust to settle.
Repulsion is the first film in Roman Polanski's "Apartment Trilogy", where Rosemary's Baby and The Tenant follow respectively. It follows Carole--an oddly quiet and distant young woman who falls down a winding and confusing path to madness--one very small step at a time. After her sister goes away on holiday, Carole's psyche takes a turn for the worst and we become trapped in the apartment with her, unsure of what is real and what isn't.
There is so much good happening in Repulsion, that I'm finding it very difficult to know where to begin. The entire film for me could be a study in perfection. With every shot, I find myself getting more and more excited about how much I love it. For a film that has a rather simple plot---there is so much complexity involved.
I'll start with the quiet. The film is so unbelievably quiet. This nature of the film seems to identify clearly with Carole--who barely seems to say more than 20 words in the film. What makes me so interested about the often silent nature of the film is that there are noises and even some instances of music. These however are intrusions and annoyances that seem to occur.
Throughout the film there are these repeated sounds and noises that start to affect us. These repetitions of sound almost start becoming characters of their own. Each with this weird sense of depth. We have the ringing of the school bell that clangs relentlessly. The sound of dripping water, the ticking clock, the unusual sound of the elevator, the nuns laughing, the person that plays the piano, the footsteps and the sound of the buzzing flies. Each of these sounds becomes so aggravating for some reason. I felt like the real reason Carole was going mad was because of all these intrusive noises.
Then we have the closeness of the film. Repulsion takes us to the extreme in terms of how close we get to Carole. I mean this literally as some of the close ups to her face feel like the camera must have been hitting her.
I viewed this as another importance trait of the film. The closer we get to Carole, the closer we get to her madness. It's like for that hour and 40 minutes or so, we are put front and center into that apartment with her. It's like we start becoming Carole---that's how close it gets.
I noticed the film was pushing this closeness when I kept seeing a lot of this.
Do you see it?
There are all these shots of the back of Carole's head that kind of align with us. Because we can't see her face, and because the other people interacting are staring straight at her, it's kind of like they are looking at us....like we become Carole--or we at least become part of Carole's vantage point.
Then there are of course the more obvious things, like the symbolism of the cracking of the apartment's walls,
the cutting of things like the telephone cord, the potatoes growing more and more mutant looking,
and the very repulsive rotting corpse of the rabbit.
All these things in some way symbolize the degradation of Carole's mind. Cracking away, being cut off from reality, and rotting away.
Good god I love this film, and I've barely gotten to know it. It's whore-ish of me, I know but I can't help it. I just want to keep watching it. I love just becoming lost in that world of Carole's, where sexual gratification is repulsive and sickening. I want to vanish in those soft walls and get sucked into one of Carole's silent rape nightmares....wow, I never thought I would say that.
There's just so much to get sucked into. I love how we aren't ever told outright what is wrong with Carole. Sure, we can make connections about past traumas and perhaps the possibility of her being molested as a child, but are we ever really sure? It's like the judging of the old family photo that we see. Some say Carole's eyes are fixated on the man to her right, looking terrified. Is this the man that caused her trauma?
I personally just see a girl in that picture who has always been distant and strange. To me it seems as though she isn't looking at anyone, she's looking into nothingness. It's not hard to tell which one she is, since she possesses that same exact trauma filled look now. But if she's been that way for so long, why wouldn't anyone notice sooner?
My descent into Repulsion marks a landmark in my movie watching career because for the first time, I have not rushed off to IMDB to get some clarity on things I didn't understand. This isn't because I don't have questions however--it's more because I'd rather just keep my views and thoughts to myself. It's a film that can stand on its own without being 100% explained. It's a movie that I will probably think about for a very long time and it's a movie that I'll probably end up comparing to others in terms of its greatness factor. "Yeah it's good but is it, Repulsion good?"
I think what I need to do is just sit in a dark room somewhere and think about it. Remember how perfect our time was together and how great things will be when we meet again. I don't buy a lot of DVDs (Read: any) but I would seriously consider purchasing this immediately. Repulsion is a truly beautiful film, filled with the most amazing sense of quietness I've ever witnessed. It makes me wonder if the world we are presented with is so quiet---what is going on inside of Carole's mind? I imagine, screaming.