Repulsion is a 1965 British psychological horror film directed by Roman Polanski and starring Catherine Deneuve, Ian Hendry, John Fraser and Yvonne Furneaux.
Belgian immigrant Carol Ledoux works as a manicurist in London. During her shift, a customer and her co-worker Bridget both comment on her daydreaming. Later that day, she is catcalled by a labourer on the street and goes to a restaurant for lunch where a suitor, Colin, finds her and attempts to ask her to go for a meal with him. Carol tries to rebuff his advances and tells him that she has existing dinner plans with her sister, Helen.
Back at her apartment, Carol finds a straight razor and a toothbrush in her glass cup belonging to Michael, a married man with whom Helen is having an affair. She dislikes Michael, concerned that he's invading her personal living space, and complains about him to Helen, while also noticing a crack in the kitchen wall that bothers her. Michael arrives and decides to take Helen out to eat, cancelling her dinner plans with Carol. He makes an awkward greeting which Carol shies away from. Left alone, Carol plays a record and the camera settles on a family photograph of Carol and Helen as children. That night, Carol is disturbed by the loud moans of Helen and Michael having sex and struggles to fall asleep.
The next morning, Carol accidentally catches Michael shaving in the bathroom, and answers a telephone call from Helen's irate Landlord who demands payment for missed rent. At work, she finds Bridget crying over a man who dumped her. Afterwards, Carol sits on a bench, mesmerised by a crack in the pavement. She is found by Colin who expresses frustration at having been stood up for a rendez-vous. He offers to take her home. When they arrive outside the apartment, Colin kisses Carol without her consent, causing her to quickly run into her apartment, wiping her mouth in disgust. In the bathroom, she brushes her teeth and finds Michael's belongings in her glass yet again. She throws them into the dustbin and retreats to her room, weeping. At night, Helen confronts her about throwing Michael's things away.
Helen wakes Carol up as she is leaving for Italy with Michael. Carol begs her not to leave, but she reassures Carol and reminds her to pay their landlord the rent. Carol becomes withdrawn and unresponsive at work, inviting the concern of Bridget and her boss, who sends her home. Carol returns to the apartment and pulls out a skinned rabbit from the refrigerator, intending to cook it, but she sets it down in the living room, distracted by a telephone call that turns out to be silent, save for heavy breathing. She inspects Michael's razor out of curiosity and picks up his discarded vest from the bathroom floor, smelling it, which causes her to vomit. Later that evening, she tries one of her sister's dresses, seeing a man appear in the wardrobe mirror. As she tries to sleep, she hears footsteps outside of her bedroom door.
In the morning, Carol runs a bath and becomes distracted, flooding the bathroom. When trying to turn on the living room light, the wall cracks open, revealing something moving beneath. Frightened, she locks herself in her bedroom where she hallucinates the labourer from the street raping her. She wakes up on the floor to hear the phone ringing with Colin on the other end, whom she ignores. Returning to work, Carol is reprimanded by her boss for disappearing for three days. Giving an elderly customer a manicure, she slips into distraction and wounds the customer's finger. She is sent home again, and Bridget recommends seeing a movie and joyfully recalls a scene from Charlie Chaplin's film "The Gold Rush" in the cinema. Carol has a tender moment laughing with Bridget, but withdraws immediately when Bridget mentions her male date. Bridget is shocked to discover the rabbit's severed head in Carol's purse.
That evening, Carol hears cracking sounds, and glances at her family photo, hallucinating the wall behind it shattering. The doorbell rings and a desperate and lovestruck Colin arrives at her door, demanding to speak to her. After Carol refuses to let him in, he breaks into her apartment. He apologises to a terrified Carol, confessing that he wants to be with her "all the time", but when he turns his back to close the door, Carol bludgeons him to death with a candlestick. Panicked, she barricades the door, wipes Colin's blood off using a book and places his body in the filled bathtub. She regresses, embroidering a blouse while humming a tune, her voice cracking with sobs. The camera pans to show the now-headless skinned rabbit, rotting away with Michael's razor now on the plate.
After a second hallucination of being raped (this time by Michael in his vest), Carol wakes up on the floor, naked. A postcard of the Learning Tower of Pisa is slipped under her door, with written well-wishes from Helen and Michael. At night, she hallucinates again - male hands emerge from cracks in the wall and grope her. The next day, she answers an abusive telephone call from Michael's jealous wife and hangs up. When the phone continues to ring, she uses the razor to cut the cord. Shortly afterwards, the doorbell rings. The Landlord pushes past the barricade to enter the apartment, demanding the still-unpaid rent, noting that there is damage to the property. After being handed the rent money, the Landlord attempts to ingratiate himself to Carol, despite being shocked by the filthy state of the apartment and presence of the decaying rabbit, which he disposes of. The Landlord picks up and observes the family photograph before forcing himself onto Carol, telling her that she can forget about the rent if she "looks after" him. Carol, holding Michael's razor, slashes the landlord. As he checks his wound in the mirror in surprise, she attacks again, hacking him to death. She hides his body under the overturned sofa.
Carol's odd behaviour and hallucinations intensify. She puts on lipstick and lies in bed, suffering another hallucination of being raped. Afterwards, she writes on a glass pane with tweezers and wanders her apartment aimlessly to find hands bursting out of the walls. She walks down the hallway, now with multiple reaching hands groping her as she walks past. In Helen's bedroom, she perceives the ceiling falling on her.
That night, Helen and Michael return home. Helen finds Colin's body in the bathtub and screams. Michael finds the hyperventilating Helen and demands to know what's happening. Shaking, Helen points him towards the bathroom. Michael goes to call for help, while Helen spots Carol's hand sticking out from under Helen's bed. The neighbours begin to gather and lift the bed up to find Carol lying underneath in a catatonic state. Michael comes into the room and lifts Carol's limp body out, stopping in the hallway to look at her face, which returns a blank stare. A slight smile appears on Michael's face, transforming into a more serious expression. He carries her out of the apartment. In the final scene, the camera pans to focus on the family photograph, showing Helen and the rest of the family smiling towards the camera while Carol maintains a blank gaze in the direction of an older male relative.
List of Deaths
|Name||Cause of Death||Killer||On Screen||Notes|
|Colin||Beaten to death with a candlestick||Carol Ledoux||Partially|
|The Landlord||Slashed with a razor||Carol Ledoux||Yes|
- Catherine Deneuve - Carol Ledoux
- John Fraser - Colin
- Yvonne Furneaux - Helen Ledoux
- Ian Hendry - Michael
- Patrick Wymark - The Landlord
- Helen Fraser - Bridget
- Renée Houston - Miss Balch
- Roman Polanski - Street performer playing spoons (cameo role)
Repulsion was Roman Polanski's first English-language film. At the time, neither Polanski nor Deneuve knew how to speak English, so communication was hard since the film was set in London. Originally, Paramount was going to finance the film, but they declined. Instead they were approached by Compton Pictures, which at the time mostly distributed pornography. The film is the first British film to ever show female orgasm, since the scenes of female orgasms were mostly silent. Polanski admitted that the film was made to finance his next project, the comedy-horror film Cul-de-sac. Repulsion is the first film in the Apartment Trilogy, followed by Rosemary's Baby and The Tenant.
Repulsion currently has a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.