The first in Polanski’s ‘Apartment Trilogy’, preceding Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and The Tenant (1976), Repulsion is a profoundly sensory portrait of withdrawal, alienation and psychosis. An alluring 22-year-old Catherine Deneuve plays Carol Ledoux, a mostly silent and abstruse Belgian manicurist living in London with her sister Helen, whose attention is absorbed by a lascivious relationship with Michael, a married man played with befitting sleaze by Ian Hendry, and who Carol clearly despises.
When Helen and Michael leave town for a holiday in Pisa (a postcard of the unstable tower arrives later), Carol starts to unravel. Relentlessly pursued by men who find her irresistible but who she finds repulsive, Carol unsuccessfully attempts to confine herself to the apartment, which gradually starts to mirror her own psychological decline through decay and dissolution. Chilling but sublime, this is Polanski at his most compelling.
This film is showing as part of the IFI’s Focus on Roman Polanski (January 4th – 26th).