Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Repulsion (1965)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Repulsion (1965, UK)

In director Roman Polanski's psychological thriller (his first English language film) about a woman's mad descent into schizophrenia - the first of his so-called "Apartment Trilogy", also with Rosemary's Baby (1968) and The Tenant (1976) - and similar to David Lynch's later Eraserhead (1977):

  • the opening image during the title credits - the closeup of an eyeball, and the slow pull-back from the female's dead-eyed stare (paralleled at film's end with a zoom-in), followed by the symbolic cracking of an aging female's facial mask in an upper-class beauty salon looking like a corpse (Note: also, the image of the cracking of the sidewalk pavement, and other cracking images throughout the film)
Beauty Salon Facial Mask
Cracking Sidewalk
  • the main protagonist: shy, detached, and sexually-repressed 18 year-old London manicurist Carol (Catherine Deneuve) from Belgium, living in a claustrophobic apartment in Kensington with her older sister Helen (Yvonne Furneaux), and working in an all-female salon/spa
  • Carol's dependence upon her sister, and her continued unease with Helen's affair with married boyfriend Michael (Ian Hendry), including his intrusive toothbrush and razor left on the bathroom shelf
  • the night scene of Carol's extreme discomfort and frustration while listening to Helen and Michael's loud orgasmic love-making through the wall next to her bedroom; the next night, she experienced the same unpleasurable sounds of them having sex.
  • the progression of Carol's increasing insanity (when Helen and Michael left for a fortnight vacation to Italy), accompanied by troubling daydreams and the disquieting sounds of a ticking alarm clock and dripping kitchen faucet, and other nerve-wracking aural effects (the doorbell and ringing telephone, keys plunking musical scales on a piano, etc. )
  • the equally-startling hallucinatory image of a crack appearing in the wall (she mused: "We must get this crack mended")
  • Carol's disturbing, hallucinatory imagining of suspicious footsteps in her apartment, and the appearance of a hairy, brutish man breaking in to her bedroom, grabbing her hair, holding her down, and raping her from behind in her bed
  • the numerous shots of plates of rotting food with buzzing flies (an uncooked and skinned rabbit rapidly deteriorating), and three sprouting potatoes on the window sill
  • the scene of Carol's brutal murder of demanding Brit suitor Colin (John Fraser) after he burst into her apartment; when he first asked: "What's the matter? I'm sorry. I just, I had to see you, that's all. Honestly, it's been so, so miserable without you. I phoned and phoned! The ringing tone nearly drove me mad. Is it uh, is it something I've done?", she responded only catatonically; when he turned to close the apartment door, she beat the threatening male multiple times on the head with a heavy candlestick and then immersed his body in a bathtub already full of water
  • the famed sequence of a set of grasping phantom hands reaching out to grope at her, and then numerous disembodied hands broke through both sides of her hallway, reminiscent of Jean Cocteau's La Belle et La Bete (1946)
Increased Hallucinatory Craziness
Carol Naked on Floor
Grasping Hands Protruding From Wall
  • a second murder sequence, when Carol's middle-aged, creepy, sweaty, and lusty landlord (Patrick Wymark) entered to collect the rent, complained about the "pigstye" condition of the apartment, and then proposed a sexual bargain: ("I could be a very good friend to you, you know. You look after me and you can forget about the rent. Come on. Just a little kiss between friends, huh, come on"); when he attempted to sexually assault her, she slashed out in a retaliatory way with Michael's straight-edged razor; she first cut him across the back of his neck, then hacked away when he fell to the floor
Carol's Slashing Murder of Landlord
  • the view of Carol obsessively ironing with an unplugged iron
  • the return of Helen and Michael to discover Carol in the apartment - lifelessly lying catatonic under her bed on the floor amidst carnage; surrounded by inquisitive neighbors, Michael carried Carol away for treatment (or arrest?) - after being warned not "to touch her", and the moment of his strange glance at her as he held her in his arms
  • the ambiguous ending -- highlighted by a slow panning camera motion, and then a thematic slow zoom (a reversal of the opening zoom out) into the partially-obscured, sinister, old family photograph with a view of the same young, mad-looking Carol staring angrily away; the zoom ended with an extreme close-up of her eye; in an earlier image of the full photograph, she appeared to be glaring at her father (abusive?) seated to her left
The Enigmatic Yet Revealing Family Photograph
Family Photograph
Zooming In
Close-Up of Aloof Carol

Opening Credits: Closeup of Eyeball Criss-crossed by Lettering

Carol (Catherine Deneuve)

Carol Disturbed by Michael's Items in Bathroom

Orgasmic Love-Making Overheard by Carol Twice

Crack in Wall

Suspicious Footsteps Heard

Plate of Rotting Uncooked Rabbit

Carol's Brutal Bludgeoning of Colin from his POV

Colin's Body in Bathtub

Michael Carrying Carol Away


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