Thursday, October 27, 2011

"Repulsion" - Repression or Abuse?

In my continuing effort to educate myself on all aspects of film making, and in honor of Halloween, I took the opportunity last night to view the infamous 1965 Roman Polanski film, "Repulsion." This film was groundbreaking in many ways, the most renowned of which was the performance by Catherine Deneuve in her second feature role (her first was "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.")  "Repulsion" is the story of a young woman who is repulsed by the sex act and eventually descends into madness with bloody consequences.  While I understand this woman was repulsed by any contact with men, whether it was actual physical contact or contact with any thing (such as a toothbrush or shaving razor) having to do with a man, I am not at all convinced it was simply due to her psychosis.  There is a disturbing scene where a family portrait is shown in close up and the little blond girl in the background is clearly Catherine's character.  The rest of the family is smiling and sitting close together, while Catherine's character is standing back, apart, distant and forlorn.  There is certainly something amiss in this family.  She is also visited every night at midnight by dreams of recurring sexual abuse and rape by the same man, whom I believe is probably her father.  Her attempt to lead a normal life as an adult becomes an impossibility for her and she commits murder to keep herself safe from what she perceives as tremendous danger to her person.  Repulsion such as this does not develop independently.  There is almost always a history of abuse that precedes it.  Thus I feel this is a film about a woman who endured violent abuse and lost her mind as a result.  This film is brilliant in its depiction of the slow deterioration of Catherine and Catherine plays it perfectly.  There are moments of fright and terror, but the true genius of the film are the close ups of Catherine and the long scenes of her loneliness and anguish.  You will feel like it will never end but hang in there with it.  This film is a genre all to itself, and the vision of the beautiful, yet so disturbed Catherine Deneuve will haunt you.

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