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 horror-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), and with elements from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) and Michael Powell's Peeping Tom (1960, UK) - its tagline was: "This is not a dream. THIS IS REALITY!" It was regarded as the first UK film to present sounds of a female orgasm:

  • the opening image during the title credits was an external closeup of an eyeball, and the slow pull-back from the female's dead-eyed stare (paralleled at film's end with a zoom-into the eyeball), followed by the symbolic cracking of an aging female's facial mask in an upper-class beauty salon looking like a corpse (Note: also, there were other cracking images throughout the film, including the image of the cracking of the sidewalk pavement, apartment walls - and of course, the protagonist's mentally-deranged schizophrenic mind)

Beauty Salon Facial Mask

Cracking Sidewalk
  • the main protagonist was 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; she learned from Helen that there were insistent demands from the landlord about Helen's late rent payment for the month
  • Carol was very dependent upon her sister, but was continually uneasy about Helen's affair with her married boyfriend Michael (Ian Hendry), including his intrusive toothbrush and razor left in a glass on the bathroom shelf
  • Carol felt 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 also experienced the same unpleasurable sounds of them having sex
  • one of Carol's distressed co-worker friends Bridget (Helen Fraser) in the beauty salon commented about how she had her heart broken by her male suitor; she expressed contempt for "bloody men. Promise you the earth and then... Oh, I could cut my throat....I thought this one was different....Oh, he was a pig!...I'll tell you the sordid details later," as Carol sat nearby detached and unemotional; she was also continually harrassed when out of the apartment by Brit suitor Colin (John Fraser) who demanded a date with her
  • Carol's insanity and withdrawn nature intensified 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, footsteps on the floor above or outside her bedroom, etc.); she was also disgusted by finding Michael's smelly and discarded T-shirt on the bathroom floor and deposited it on the floor next to the laundry basket
  • in the most startling scene, she opened a mirrored wardrobe door - to try on some clothes; when she closed the door, there was a brief mirror reflection of a man in her apartment standing behind her; she then turned slowly and looked back, but there was no one in the room
  • before going to work, she turned on the faucets for the bathtub, but then was distracted and forgot about it, and realized later that she had flooded her entire bathroom
  • there were numerous shots of decomposition and rapid deterioration, including a plate of rotting food (an uncooked and skinned rabbit) with buzzing flies - and three sprouting potatoes on the kitchen counter
Images of Decay and Death

Three Sprouting Potatoes on Kitchen Counter

Plate of Rotting Uncooked Skinned Rabbit - Beheaded
  • there was an equally-startling hallucinatory image of a crack suddenly appearing in the wall when she turned on a wall light
  • Carol experienced disturbing, fanciful, hallucinatory imaginings of suspicious footsteps in her apartment, and the appearance of a brutish man (Was it her fantasy of Michael raping her or someone else?) breaking through her bedroom door, grabbing her hair, holding her down, and raping her from behind in her bed
  • after breaking a dinner date, Carol's rejected but very persistent suitor Colin appeared at Carol's door (seen through the peekhole) - and insistently asked: "There's somebody there. I can see your shadow. What's the matter? I just want to talk to you, that's all. Carol! If you don't open the door, I'll bloody well break it down!"; when she wouldn't answer, he violently burst through her door and penetrated into her apartment; and then he asked again: "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. It's all so sordid. 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? Carol! Please, tell me. I'm not really like this, you know? I wish I could find the proper words to say. They just keep going round and round in my head. I just - I want to be, to be with you, all the time"; she responded only catatonically

Colin Appearing Through Carol's Door Peekhole

Colin Before Shutting Carol's Door (and Removing Possible Witness)

Carol's Brutal Bludgeoning of Colin from his POV

Colin's Body in Bathtub
  • when Colin turned to close the apartment door on a neighbor arriving back after walking their dog (a potential witness), she bludgeoned the threatening male multiple times on the head with a heavy candlestick holder, as he quivered and died; she was shocked when blood streamed out from above Colin's ear; she barricaded the damaged front door with a piece of a wooden shelf, and then used an open paper-backed book to wipe Colin's blood off the inside of the door; she dragged his body into the bathroom and immersed him in the bathtub already full of water; she regressed into an earlier infantile stage - humming a melody while sewing a blouse
  • Carol retreated to her bedroom where she was again fantasized that she was being sexually taken by the rapist awaiting her in bed, to the incessant sound of a loud ticking clock
  • a loud doorbell provided the transition to the next sequence; the camera slowly retreated out the doorway of Carol's bedroom, locating her naked on the floor and partially draped with a blanket after the night's imagined orgy; she was awakened when a postcard sent from Pisa, Italy by Helen and Michael was slipped under the door; Helen asked: "Did you pay the rent?", while Michael had scrawled: "Don't make too much DOLCE VITA while we're away!"
  • in one of the film's most startling sequences, after she briefly visited the bathroom where the wall was leaking water, in the dark hallway, two separate grasping phantom hands reached out, both trying to grope at her breasts; she answered an obscene phone call from Michael's angry wife who threatened her and thought she was Helen: "You filthy bitch!...Who do you think, you filthy little tart! You think I don't know he's with you? You think you're clever, but you're not that clever, you filthy..."; to stop and silence another call, she cut the phone line with Michael's straight-edged razor
  • the doorbell rang again, and the apartment's middle-aged, creepy, sweaty, and lusty Landlord (Patrick Wymark) barged in to collect Helen's rent; he complained about the damaged and barricaded front door, the filthy and dark condition of the place: ("This is a flamin' nut house!"), Carol's flimsy and transparent nightgown and her apparent sickly and ill situation: ("Do you always, uh, run around like, uh, this"), and the "pigsty" look and smell of the apartment (with the decaying and beheaded rabbit carcass and buzzing flies) ("Beats me how you young people can live in such a mess. It's like a pigsty!")
  • and then after calling her a "poor little girl all by herself" and a "frightened animal," the Landlord proposed a sexual bargain to lessen her loneliness during her sister's absence: ("I could be a very good friend to you, you know. You look after me and you can forget about the rent. Come on. Come on. Just a little kiss between friends, huh, come on"); when the lecherous landlord forced himself upon her on the sofa and attempted to sexually assault Carol, she fought him off; when he persisted and approached her for a kiss, 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 at him when he fell back onto the sofa, spraying blood onto him and herself; she overturned the sofa to hide his bloody corpse

Seeking the Rent Payment, Landlord Disgusted by Condition of Apartment

Landlord Noticing Carol in Her Flimsy Nightgown

Assaulting Her on the Sofa

Approaching Carol For a Kiss

Slashing Him Across the Back of His Neck

Hacking at Him on the Sofa
Carol's Slashing Murder of Lecherous Landlord
  • Carol's hallucinatory delusions intensified, with further wall cracks; she was viewed obsessively ironing Helen’s married boyfriend’s dirty undershirt with the iron unplugged (shown with a striking tilt-down camera angle); she applied lipstick before reclining on her bed and having another rape fantasy with a man who appeared next to her; she also pretended to scribble words on a window pane with a pair of tweezers
  • one of the film's most indelible images was of numerous disembodied hands breaking through both sides of her hallway to grope at her as she walked along, reminiscent of Jean Cocteau's La Belle et La Bete (1946); she also imagined the ceiling in Helen's bedroom collapsing onto her
  • upon the return of Helen and Michael after their two-week trip, Helen was the first to be stunned by signs of upheaval and disregard, plus a nasty smell; after she discovered the bloody body of Colin submerged in the bathtub, Helen began to hyperventilate in the hallway and turned mute; Michael attempted to notify a neighbor to call the police; then Helen realized that the catatonic Carol was lifelessly lying under her own bed with her arm sticking out, and she again reacted in shock; Michael entered the room, picked up Carol (with open eyes!) (ignoring commands to not touch her) and gave her strange glances (lustful?) as he carried her away down the stairs amidst inquisitive neighbors

Carol Located Catatonic and Under Helen's Bed by Helen and Some Neighbors

Michael Giving Carol a Long Glance Before Picking Her Up in Helen's Bedroom

Another Strange Glance From Michael Before Carrying Carol Away Down the Stairs
  • the ambiguous ending was highlighted by a slow panning camera motion to the right and then down and to the left, followed by a thematic slow zoom forward (a reversal of the opening zoom out) into the partially-obscured, sinister, old family photograph on the living room's mantelpiece; there was a view of the same young, mad-looking Carol staring angrily away; she appeared to be glaring at her father (abusive?) seated to her left; the zoom ended with an extreme close-up of her eye
The Enigmatic Yet Revealing Family Photograph

Family Photograph

Zooming In

Close-Up of Aloof Carol

Opening Credits: Closeup of Eyeball Criss-crossed by Lettering

Disturbed Manicurist Carol (Catherine Deneuve)

Carol Disturbed by Michael's Items in Bathroom

Orgasmic Love-Making Overheard by Carol Twice

Sudden Reflection on Man in Apartment While Closing the Mirrored Wardrobe Door

Crack in Wall

Suspicious Footsteps Heard Outside Her Bedroom

Fantasy - Brutish Man Entering Her Bedroom to Rape Her (Was it a Dream of Michael Raping Her?)

2nd Rape Fantasy After Murdering Colin

The Next Morning - Mostly Naked and Lying on the Floor

Postcard From Helen and Michael

Hallucinatory Craziness: A Grasping Hand Grabbing at Carol's Breast

Carol's Crazed Look After the Landlord's Brutal Murder

Carol Maniacally Pressing Michael's Shirt With an Unplugged Iron

Reclining on Bed Before Another Rape Fantasy

Scribbling on A Glass Window Pane

Grasping Hands Protruding From Wall


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