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Repulsion is a physiological horror made in 1965 and was directed by Roman Polanski. The story follows a woman named Carol Ledoux who lives with her sister in London. While her sister is out of town, Carol is left on her own in her apartment trapped with her repressed memories and horrifying nightmarish thoughts, we see Carol’s insanity grow further as the intensity of the surreal visual imagery develops. The protagonist takes the viewer into her spiral of chaotic thoughts as she leads us into the dark enlarging hallways and expanding spooky rooms filled with her madness. The apartment itself seems to show some life form from its forever expanding spaces within it; however it is the rigid cracked ceilings to the hands instantly emerging from the walls which signify the reflection of Carol’s emotional and mental state. ‘As Carol's mind disintegrates, the seedy, run down, claustrophobic apartment becomes the site of gothic horror, the castle, the dungeon, the lonely shack in the woods. The terrible place. But of course the terrible place isn't the flat at all. It's Carol's mind’ (Macintyre, 2012)
Fig 1. The hands groping her as she walks down the hallway reflect upon the horrifying sexual nightmares or fantasies that she has been having. Casted shadows are repeatedly being shown underneath Carol’s door when she sleeps at night, followed by the sound effects of the slow pacing footsteps which haunt the viewer to what follows next. The tension is broken when a man is seen barging through the door in attempt to rape Carol which is underlined with silence to evoke the fear and helplessness that the protagonist feels. ‘Triggered by her unceasing fear of sexual violation, nightly fantasies of being raped by a spectral figure drive her closer to mental and emotional breakdown, and her latent violent tendencies begin to surface’ (Gonzalez, 1997) This is where the audience truly begins to see the madness grow within her.
Mise en scene: Secret Lairs
Through certain reactions she expresses, the audience immediately acknowledges her attitude towards men showing the ‘repulsion’ she feels against them; this is first witnessed in the relationship between carol and her sister’s boyfriend. She awkwardly responds when he attempts to speak to her, and she repeatedly sees his things in the bathroom such as his razor, to which she throws away.
The razor is seen again further into the film, but this time it is shown against the decaying rabbit on a plate and beside the sprouting potatoes. Symbols are used to justify carols progression of madness and in this case the growth and decay of the foods are there to represent her growing insanity, while the razor symbolises men. The relation between the two elements expresses how her madness is deriving from the repulsion of men. The psychological aspect which expressed in the film could reflect upon Freud’s theory of repressed memories, ‘A peerless Freudian nightmare’ (Croce, 2012). This can be seen through the symbolic image which is shown at the end where it depicts Carol at a young age staring intensively and aggressively at her father, suggesting the possibility of sexual abuse that she had suffered from him. This image is lightly explained earlier on in this film where the landlord questions Carol upon it, however as an audience we do not see it. Shortly after he is answered he attempts to rape Carol showing the possibility of a repressed memory seeping through her consciousness.
Mise en scene: Secret Lairs
Fig 1http://www.google.com/imgres?hl=en&tbo=d&biw=1366&bih=667&tbm=isch&tbnid= 0jyMdElL2zbNNM:&imgrefurl=http://filmexperience.blogspot.com/2009/08/losing-itinstyle.html&docid=rt8MsZ3mJgIYiM&imgurl=http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_gESD1wkyrz8/ SnQEIBLNE_I/AAAAAAAAEII/lyX28EcBaRA/s400/repulsion%252Bhalls.jpg&w=400&h =221&ei=qV3PULboEevL0AXv4Fo&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=429&vpy=144&dur=393&hovh=133&hovw=233&tx=152& ty=107&sig=101173468274702699087&page=1&tbnh=130&tbnw=226&start=0&ndsp =26&ved=1t:429,r:2,s:0,i:94 Fig 2 http://www.google.com/imgres?hl=en&tbo=d&biw=1366&bih=667&tbm=isch&tbnid= xTsajU6rFIuElM:&imgrefurl=http://horrordigest.blogspot.com/2011/01/repulsionquietperfection.html&docid=mPn46SbfbMorBM&imgurl=http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_kRuD6z V4Fqs/TTtedeReoZI/AAAAAAAAG7A/ZUEjVg7CGlI/s1600/ishot2932.jpg&w=830&h=482&ei=W1bPUKGrDqKw0AWIm4DwCg&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx= 4&vpy=194&dur=4631&hovh=171&hovw=295&tx=157&ty=67&sig=10117346827470 2699087&page=1&tbnh=137&tbnw=247&start=0&ndsp=26&ved=1t:429,r:7,s:0,i:109 Fig 3http://www.google.com/imgres?hl=en&tbo=d&biw=1366&bih=667&tbm=isch&tbnid= GkVf4nBL8y7HwM:&imgrefurl=http://horrordigest.blogspot.com/2011/01/repulsionquietperfection.html&docid=mPn46SbfbMorBM&imgurl=http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_kRuD6z V4Fqs/TTteTqk3tCI/AAAAAAAAG64/a_cjQPWEpGc/s1600/ishot2934.jpg&w=936&h=543&ei=W1bPUKGrDqKw0AWIm4DwCg&zoom=1&iact=rc&dur= 302&sig=101173468274702699087&page=1&tbnh=143&tbnw=253&start=0&ndsp=2 6&ved=1t:429,r:16,s:0,i:136&tx=72&ty=47 Fig 4http://www.google.com/imgres?hl=en&tbo=d&biw=1366&bih=667&tbm=isch&tbnid= mk9TqAmbd1C2LM:&imgrefurl=http://mollybolder.blogspot.com/2010/12/romanpolanskis-repulsion1965.html&docid=sUtdLRYT64UQ8M&imgurl=http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_Xh8OsdXukA M/TQE_ugl11oI/AAAAAAAAAh4/vOvtpJWZ8H8/s1600/repulsion%252Bphoto.jpg&w= 1024&h=576&ei=qXDPUKj3HZGb1AXq5ICAAQ&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=803&vpy=150& dur=109&hovh=168&hovw=300&tx=106&ty=53&sig=101173468274702699087&page =1&tbnh=128&tbnw=241&start=0&ndsp=27&ved=1t:429,r:18,s:0,i:142
Mise en scene: Secret Lairs
(Macintyre, Elaine 2012) http://www.elainemacintyre.net/film_reviews/repulsion.php (Gonzalez, Felix Jr. 1997) http://www.dvdreview.com/reviews/pages/3022.shtml (Croce, Fernando F. 2012) http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/repulsion/