Repulsion (film)


Theatrical release poster
Directed by Roman Polanski
Produced by Gene Gutowski
Screenplay by Roman Polanski
Gérard Brach
David Stone
Story by Roman Polanski
Gérard Brach
Starring Catherine Deneuve
Yvonne Furneaux
Ian Hendry [1]
John Fraser
Music by Chico Hamilton
Cinematography Gilbert Taylor
Edited by Alastair McIntyre
Distributed by Compton Films
Royal Films International
Release dates
  • 11 June 1965 (1965-06-11) (UK)
  • 3 October 1965 (1965-10-03) (US)
Running time
105 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget £65,000
Box office $3,122,166[2]

Repulsion is a 1965 British psychological horror film directed by Roman Polanski, and starring Catherine Deneuve, Ian Hendry, John Fraser and Yvonne Furneaux. The screenplay was based on a scenario by Gérard Brach and Polanski. The plot focuses on a young woman who is left alone by her vacationing sister at their apartment, and begins reliving traumas of her past in horrific ways. Shot in London, it was Polanski's first English-language film and second feature-length production, following Knife in the Water (1962).

The film debuted at the 1965 Cannes Film Festival before receiving theatrical releases internationally. Upon its release, Repulsion received considerable critical acclaim and currently is considered one of Polanski's greatest movies.[3][4][5] It was the first installment in Polanski's "Apartment Trilogy", followed by Rosemary's Baby (1968) and The Tenant (1976), both of which are also horror films that take place primarily inside apartment buildings.[6] The film was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Gilbert Taylor's cinematography.


Carol Ledoux (Catherine Deneuve), a Belgian manicurist, lives in Kensington, London, with her older sister Helen (Yvonne Furneaux). Carol practically sleepwalks through her days, and interacts awkwardly with men. A would-be suitor, Colin (John Fraser), is flummoxed by her behaviour and she rebuffs his advances, disgusted by them. She hides her head in her pillow against her sister's cries of sexual pleasure with her lover, Michael (Ian Hendry). When Helen leaves on a holiday to Italy with Michael, Carol appears even more distracted at work, gets sent home, stays in the apartment, leaves a raw, skinned rabbit out to rot, and begins to hallucinate, first seeing the walls cracking, a man breaking in and molesting her, then hands reaching out to grab and attack her. Colin breaks into her apartment when she refuses to acknowledge his adoration and he apologizes for his transgression. When he says he wants to "be with [her] all the time," she bludgeons him to death with a candlestick, dumps the body into the overflowing bathtub, and nails the broken door shut.

Later, the imperious landlord (Patrick Wymark) breaks in, looking for the late rent payment. Carol pays him and sits on the sofa, staring into space. He remarks on the decaying state of the apartment, and attempts to ingratiate himself by bringing her a glass of water as he leers at her in her nightgown. When he first propositions her, then sexually assaults her, she gets away. But he comes at her again and she slashes him to death with a straight razor. When Helen and Michael return, they discover the dead bodies. Michael runs for help. Helen, distraught, finds Carol hiding under the bed in a catatonic state. Neighbors arrive curious, concerned and shocked. Michael returns and carries Carol out, staring creepily at her wide-open eye, face and body. A family photograph on the floor shows Carol as a girl, turned towards an adult male figure in the photograph with a look of loathing.



The story for Repulsion was conceived by Polanski and Gérard Brach, who wrote an outline of the script in Paris.[8] According to Polanski, the film was shot on a modest budget of £65,000.[8] In developing the apartment set decoration, cinematographer Gil Taylor photographed the apartments of various female friends in Kensington for inspiration.[8] To finance the film, Polanski and producer Gene Gutowski approached Paramount Pictures and British Lion Films, but both companies refused. Eventually, Polanski and Gutowski signed a contract with Compton Pictures, a small distribution company that had been known primarily for its distribution of softcore pornography films.[8]

Themes and style

The film is unusual for being a horror movie that features a female killer.[5] It explores the repulsion Carol feels about human sexuality and the repulsion her suitors experience when they pursue her.[9]

The movie vaguely suggests that her father may have sexually abused her as a child, which is the basis of her neuroses and breakdown.[10] Other critics have noted Carol's repeated usage of items related to her sister's boyfriend Michael,[11] as well as noting that his presence greatly provokes Carol at the beginning of the film.[12]

The film also approaches the theme of boundary breaking, with Tamar McDonald stating that she saw Carol as refusing to conform to the expected "path of femininity".[13]

The film was shot on a low budget and in black and white by Gilbert Taylor (Dr. Strangelove, A Hard Day's Night).[14] It increasingly adopts the perspective of its protagonist. The dream sequences are particularly intense.[15]


Critical response

Repulsion is widely considered a classic of the psychological thriller/horror genre.

Film critic Bosley Crowther of The New York Times gave the film a positive review stating, "An absolute knockout of a movie in the psychological horror line has been accomplished by Roman Polanski in his first English-language film."[16] Jim Emerson, filling in for Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, included the film in his list entitled "102 Movies You Must See Before...".[17]

Upon the film's release to DVD, Dave Kehr reviewed the film for The New York Times praising the film's techniques and themes, saying, "Mr. Polanski uses slow camera movements, a soundtrack carefully composed of distracting, repetitive noises (clocks ticking, bells ringing, hearts thumping) and, once Carol barricades herself in the cramped, dark apartment, explicitly expressionistic effects (cracks suddenly ripping through walls, rough hands reaching out of the darkness to grope her) to depict a plausible schizophrenic episode."[18]

Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 100% of 60 film critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 8.9 out of 10. The consensus states "Roman Polanski's first English film follows a schizophrenic woman's descent into madness, and makes the audience feel as claustrophobic as the character."[19] The film is currently No. 14 on Rotten Tomatoes' list of best rated films.[20] Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, gives the film a score of 91 based on 8 reviews.[21]


At the 15th Berlin International Film Festival in 1965, Repulsion won both the FIPRESCI Prize and the Silver Berlin Bear-Extraordinary Jury Prize.[22] The film was also nominated for a BAFTA in Best Black and White Cinematography.[23]

The film paved the way for Polanski's entry into the cinemas of Western Europe and drew attention to Catherine Deneuve with her performance.[15]


Repulsion is the first of Polanski's "apartment trilogy", as it preceded Rosemary's Baby (1968) and The Tenant (Le Locataire, 1976).[24]

The film has also been the source of inspiration for many films and music videos throughout the years:

Home media

In 2009, the film was released as part of the Criterion Collection on DVD and Blu-ray. Both releases contain two documentary featurettes, audio commentary by Roman Polanski and Catherine Deneuve, original trailers, and a 16-page booklet.[28]

See also


  1. "Official Website of Ian Hendry". Retrieved 6 July 2013.
  2. "Répulsion (1965)". JP's Box Office.
  3. Morgan, Kim (27 September 2009). "Roman Polanski Understands Women: Repulsion". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 8 November 2013.
  4. Adams, Sam (26 July 2009). "Roman Polanski's 'Repulsion'". Los Angeles Times. A Second Look. Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  5. 1 2 Bradshaw, Peter (3 January 2013). "Repulsion – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  6. Wojtas, Michael (31 October 2013). "The keys to Polanski's apartment trilogy and Rosemary's Baby". Impose Magazine. Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  7. "Repulsion". Retrieved 26 August 2013.
  8. 1 2 3 4 Polanski, Roman; Gene Gutowski, Gil Taylor (2003). A British Horror Film (from Repulsion bonus materials on 2009 Criterion Collection release) (documentary film). Blue Underground.
  9. "The dazed brutality at the heart of Roman Polanski's films". Retrieved 22 August 2013.
  10. David Bordwell, Noel Carroll (1996). Post-Theory: Reconstructing Film Studies. University of Wisconsin Press. pp. 213–214. ISBN 0299149447.
  11. Carl Royer, B Lee Cooper (2005). The Spectacle of Isolation in Horror Films: Dark Parades. Routledge. pp. 79–81. ISBN 078902263X.
  12. Caputo, Davide (2012). Polanski and Perception: The Psychology of Seeing and the Cinema of Roman Polanski. Intellect Ltd. p. 100. ISBN 1841505528.
  13. Jeffers McDonald, Tamar (2010). Virgin Territory: Representing Sexual Inexperience in Film. Wayne State University Press. pp. 145–152. ISBN 0814333184.
  14. "Repulsion; Chinatown – review". Retrieved 21 August 2013.
  15. 1 2 "Wettbewerb/In Competition". Moving Pictures, Berlinale Extra. Berlin. 11–22 February 1998. p. 38.
  16. Crowther, Bosley (4 October 1965). "Movie Review – Repulsion". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 October 2013.
  17. Emerson, Jim (20 April 2006). "102 Movies You Must See Before...". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 9 December 2012.
  18. Kehr, Dave (22 July 2009). "A Woman Repulsed, a Man Convulsed". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 December 2012.
  19. "Repulsion – Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
  20. "Top 100 Movies Of All Time". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
  21. "Repulsion (re-release)". Metacritic. Retrieved 9 December 2012.
  22. "Berlinale 1965: Prize Winners". Retrieved 21 February 2010.
  23. "BAFTA Film Nominations – 1965". British Academy Film Awards. Archived from the original on 5 October 2013. Retrieved 9 December 2012.
  24. Orr, John; Ostrowska, Elżbieta (2006). The Cinema of Roman Polanski. Wallflower Press. p. 122.
  25. "Distant Relatives: Repulsion and Black Swan". Blogspot. 30 December 2010. Retrieved 9 December 2012.
  26. "The Cardigans - HANGING AROUND (Repulsion) video". NME. Retrieved 9 December 2012.
  27. Thill, Scott (15 October 2008). "October Rocks: Metric's 'Monster Hospital' Resuscitates Repulsion". Wired. Archived from the original on 12 May 2012. Retrieved 9 December 2012.
  28. Atanasov, Svet (10 July 2009). "Repulsion Blu-ray Review". Retrieved 9 December 2012.

External links

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