Repulsion (1965), directed by Roman Polanski

Repulsion is a little-known film, except perhaps to film buffs, and is among my favorite Polanski films (though he is not my favorite director).

Repulsion stars Catherine Deneuve (another one of my top favorite actresses), who portrays a young woman who descends into insanity, murder, and self-destruction.

This is from

Roman Polanski was still a newcomer to the world of cinema when he unleashed this unforgettable exercise in skin-crawling terror. Repulsion was the Polish director's first film in English, but that hardly mattered: much of the movie is as wordless (and as weird) as the silent Nosferatu. The young Catherine Deneuve plays a Belgian girl stranded in '60s London, a shy beauty with no social skills. When her sister leaves their shared flat, Deneuve goes gradually, quietly, completely mad. Her world becomes Polanski's paintbox, as the devilish director distorts reality via a series of surrealistic touches (grasping hands that protrude from elastic walls) and out-and-out murderous horror. Very few films cast the kind of eerie spell that this 1965 classic achieves, and it clearly points the way toward Polanski's Rosemary's Baby. As with most of the director's work, what is unsettling is not the overt violence, but the terrifying sense of emptiness and isolation, and the boiling unease inside one's own mind. --Robert Horton

What this review does not tell you about is that Carole, Deneuve’s character, seems to begin her descent into insanity when amorous attentions are paid to her by a young suitor. In stark contrast to her lively, outgoing sister, Carole is shy, reserved, and uncertain how to proceed in the relationship. But soon, what we can only assume to be Carole’s past begins to haunt her.

When I first picked this up years ago, the video sleeve described Carole as sexually repressed. But after viewing the film, I thought that that description was inaccurate. It appears that Carole has been a victim of rape, and once her adult feelings of sexuality and romance begin to develop, so do the memories of her past abuse.

Repulsion is a dark, slow, strange, and tragic film that lets the viewer experience a young woman’s insanity by blurring the line between paranoid hallucination and reality.

I recommend this film, but only if you are a patient movie watcher, as it is very slow paced compared to today’s movies.

Tags: Cinema, Deneuve, Film, Insanity, Madness, Murder, Polanski, Sexuality

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Roman Polanski’s career has not lacked for masterworks: Knife in the Water, Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown, The Pianist. Right up there also has to be his shocking 1965 thriller Repulsion—with a gorgeous young French starlet named Catherine Deneuve—which until now has never been available on home video in a properly restored edition. One of our most requested titles, Repulsion sits alongside a small handful of macabre movies from the 1960s, including Psycho, Peeping Tom, and Night of the Living Dead, that redefined the boundaries of the horror film. The first installment of what would become known as Polanski’s “apartment-house trilogy” (to be followed by Rosemary’s Baby and The Tenant), Repulsion—which Kenneth Tynan once called “Psycho turned inside out”—is an unforgettable, claustrophobic haunted-house story in which the haunting might be coming from within.

We’re so thrilled to bring into the collection (in both DVD and Blu-ray editions) this diabolical classic, about which Paper magazine just wrote: “This is possibly one of the finest of psychological shockers, and its DVD release is a cause for celebration.”


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