Saturday, 23 November 2013

Mise-en-scène Film Programme: Repulsion (1965)

Figure 1 : Movie Poster
Repulsion (1965) is the first English Language film made by director, Roman Polanski. It is a psychological horror film on the subject of a female protagonist, Carol, who was in constant fear over intimacy and breaks down when she was left alone in an apartment she shared with her sister and her married boyfriend. 

When Carol’s sister left for a short break with her married boyfriend leaving Carol all alone in the apartment, her insanity started to unfold. Polanski brilliantly portrays the change of the character’s mental state through the environment and situation she had placed her in. Firstly, he had the scene where Carol was supposed to have the rabbit for dinner but unintentionally left and forgot about it by the phone, as she got distracted answering the phone call. Then, the character saw the small cracks in her apartment expanding. In a review written by Bradshaw, he emphasized this point when he said, “Small cracks in the walls of the apartment flow into crunching indicators of the heroine's crumbling mind.” (Bradshaw, 2013)
Figure 2: Decaying Rabbit [Still Image]
Her fear of intimacy and of men could be seen right from the start of the film when she walks past by them on the streets really quickly and avoids eye contact. This fear was accentuated when she imagined the walls in her apartment to transform to flesh and was forced to touch it. In a later scene, there were hands extended in every direction from the walls in her apartment, reaching out for her. In an attempt to pull herself away from the hands that were touching her body and avoid them, she went on all fours. The dramatic lighting to the scene despite being a black and white film was visually captivating as it showed the intensive emotions. Instead of being terrified by this constant raping occurrence, Carol seems to be in acceptance of her fate. The scene to support this statement was when she put on a lipstick and showed a small sign of vanity that was not previously present before. This action of hers might be the turning point of which she realises that she has lost the battle to stay away from being sexually assaulted and welcomed this madness instead. Bradshaw wrote in his review to highlight this point further when he said “her fear of sex develops into a neurotic fascination and horror of dust and dirt of all kinds, a condition that escalates into agoraphobia and paranoid episodes.” (Bradshaw, 2013)
Figure 3: Hands Appearing From The Wall [Still Image]
Figure 4: Carol Putting on Lipstick [Still Image]
Not only was the visuals of this film kept the audience glued to their seats but also the music score by Chico Hamilton . The flawless integration of the typical horror sounds and the deafening silence had successfully build the necessary tensions and putting the audience at their edge of their seats. This is supported with Scheib’s statement when he said “Sound effects are used particularly well throughout" (Scheib, 2012). In a scene where Carol was sexually assaulted, no sound was audible except for the ticking clock suggesting how Carol wished this nightmare will be over and done with. 

In conclusion, this film has become very influential since the time it was released. Not only did this film gave a new meaning to the psychological horror genre but it has also influence other parts of the media industry like fashion. Elle, a Fashion Magazine, took the scene where Carol answered the phone after being assaulted to be part of their horror themed photo shoot. It’s black and white visual style was definitely a success that it was able to inspire other aspects of the media industry. Like Renkovish said in his review “The direction from Polanski is minimalist, yet extremely powerful. This film is a must see for cinephiles. It will stay with you for days afterward, and you will never forget the images that it plants into your mind.” (Renkovish, 2011)

Figure 5: Carol Answering The Phone [Still Image] 
Figure 6 : Elle's Photoshoot [Still Image]

List of Illustrations:

Figure 1 Repulsion (1965) [Poster] at accessed on 23 November 2013

Figure 2 Decaying Rabbit on a plate [Still Image] at accessed on 23 November 2013

Figure 3 Hands appearing from the wall [Still Image] at accessed on 23 November 2013

Figure 4 Polanski. Repulsion 1965 Teljes film [Television Programme Online] Zoltán Komka [2012] 100 minutes  accessed on 23 November 2013

Figure 5 Carol answering the phone [Still Image] at  accessed on 23 November 2013

Figure 6 Elle's Photo Shoot [Still Image] at  accessed on 23 November 2013

List of Bibliography: 

Bradshaw, Peter
Repulsion - Review
Accessed on 23 November 2013

Renkovish, Steven
Accessed on 23 November 2013

Scheib, Richard
Accessed on 23 November 2013


  1. Good discussion here again, Ayunie, particularly around the use of sound :)
    Just be careful that the quotes that you use are really meaty enough to give you something to talk about - this one for example, is a bit 'nothing-y' -

    “Sound effects are used particularly well throughout".

    You need to be using a quote that you can really unpick afterwards, and that gives your argument or discussion some body...