Filmsite Movie 

Repulsion (1965)
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Plot Synopsis (continued)

Repulsion (1965)The Beginnings of the Unraveling of Carol's Mind:

Back home in the kitchen, Carol noticed a stale loaf of bread, and removed the plate with an uncooked rabbit carcass from the refrigerator.

[Note: The uneaten and rotting rabbit functioned symbolically in the film. Rabbits are often portrayed as playful, innocent, cute, pure and adored by children, especially at Easter-time and in spring-time (a time of death and rebirth, resurrection or fertility). Rabbits are also noted for their energetic and prolific breeding and abundance, but also for being helpless and often hunted. Playboy's symbol or logo was, appropriately, a bunny (wearing a classy tuxedo), for its sexual connotations and its frisky nature. However, an ignored and untended rabbit can quickly deteriorate and look sickening - reflecting Carol's own distaste for relationships, sensuality and sexual desire. In the Bible, Leviticus 11:6, it stated that the hare was an unclean animal.]

As she answered the phone, she placed the plate down in the living room, and noticed the rent money in an envelope. No one responded on the phone line. In the bathroom after picking up Michael's left-behind straight-edged razor, she found Michael's smelly and discarded T-shirt on the bathroom floor. After smelling it, she became disgusted and dropped it onto the floor next to the laundry basket. She was also disturbed by the disquieting sound of a dripping kitchen faucet, and a startling hallucinatory image of a crack suddenly appearing in the wall. Carol began to suffer a several mental breakdown with hallucinations and nightmares, one after the other.

In the most scary 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.

That evening as she laid in bed, she traced a small crack in the wall with her finger. She also experienced fanciful, hallucinatory imaginings of suspicious footsteps in or outside her apartment.

The Next Day and Night - Further Troubling Developments in Carol's Deteriorating and Insane Mental State:

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. In a continuing daze during the day, Carol walked across a bridge. It could be presumed that she never made it to work. In the next scene, she was back in her apartment, wearing a sheer full-length nightgown.

There were numerous shots of decomposition - the plate of the uncooked and skinned rabbit was rapidly deteriorating in the living room. As Carol went to turn on the light, a gigantic crack in the wall appeared. She locked herself in her bedroom for safe-keeping.

She sat up in bed, frightful to hear footsteps outside her bedroom door. Hearing the troubling sound of a ticking alarm clock, he saw a brutish man open her (locked) bedroom door, grab her hair, hold her down, and rape her from behind in her bed. In terror, she grasped her sheets with her clenched hands. (Was it her fantasy of Michael raping her, or the sudden intruder, the workman, or someone else?).

The scene was interrupted by the loud ringing of her telephone. Lying on the floor in the living room, she picked up the receiver, but remained mute as Colin kept trying to speak to her: "Hello, Carol? This is Colin. H-hello? Carol! Carol, it's me! Carol! Please answe...!" She abruptly hung up. Buzzing flies were beginning to land on the rotting plate of rabbit.

In the kitchen, Carol nibbled another sugar cube, and noticed the three potatoes sprouting growths on the kitchen counter.

Carol's Disturbing Appearance at the Salon:

At the salon - presumably a few days later, Carol was warned about her passivity and repeated work absences by her busy, slightly-concerned supervisor Madame Denise: "I'm running a business here, Carol, not a rest home. You can't just disappear for 3 days....But surely you could have phoned?" Carol offered a lame excuse that she had an unexpected visit from an Aunt.

While trimming the cuticles of her next elderly client, Carol suddenly stopped and examined the cutting tool in her hand. The old lady began to scream horribly, as blood streamed from her stabbed finger. Carol dropped her tray of instruments and materials onto the floor, as Bridget burst into the room. Carol was subsequently fired from her job by Madame Denise. Bridget was envious that Carol was leaving the dreary salon: "I should have your luck getting off early."

Bridget assumed that Carol's miserable state of mind was due to unhappiness over failing to find love in her relationship with Colin:

I thought maybe that smooth boy, what's his name, was making you unhappy. You know, the one I've seen you with. Are you in love with him?

Carol denied that she was in love with anyone, and had been home for three days straight. Carol suggested that she attend the movies to cheer herself up, like she had with her boyfriend Roger, when they went to see the comedy classic The Gold Rush (1925) starring Charlie Chaplin. It was the only time in the film that Carol laughed outloud and showed real emotion.

[Note: Coincidentally, Bridget referenced the scene where due to starvation, the Tramp was hallucinating and thought his shoe laces were spaghetti strands. His partner also envisioned that the Tramp was a giant chicken. The same phenomenon was happening to Carol - she was projecting her internal fractured state into her external world.]

The light-hearted sequence suddenly turned horrific when Bridget noticed the decapitated head of the skinned rabbit inside Carol's partially-open purse.

Colin's Friends in the Local Pub, Joking With Him About Carol:

As Carol walked home, she passed a phone booth where Colin was ringing up Carol's apartment phone. Colin sauntered over to the pub where his two male friends Reggie and John hounded him about his lack of success in bedding down Carol:

John: Still keeping her legs crossed? It's getting you down, you know. The old, old story. (with a female tone) 'Not till we're married, darling.' I wouldn't waste your money.
Reggie: She seems a dead loss to me.
John: I mean, don't let her being foreign fool you. They're all the same these bloody virgins, they just tease us, that's all.
Reggie: She seems to have old Colin nicely steamed up, though!
John: She gets a big thrill out of it.
Reggie: You tell her; she'll soon strip off.
Colin: When I want your advice, I'll ask for it.
John: Ah! I do believe the old lad's in love. What about that, then?
Reggie: Another good man gone.
John: I think your friends are going to have to help you.

The two even suggested inviting Carol over to Reggie's apartment one evening to ply her with "sweet music, soft light, a big jug of ice gin" in order to take advantage of her (John: "At the end of the evening, she'll be begging for it." Reggie: "You'll soon be able to stop twitching." John: "She'll weep with gratitude.")

After Colin had heard enough of their misogynistic talk, he grabbed Reggie and threatened him: "Maybe you want your face pushed in?" John defused the situation, claiming to Colin that they were only joking: "Look, it was only a joke. There's no need to bloody well start going on like Cassius Clay all over the place! A joke, boy. Joke! Fellas-fellas, please! If you go on like this, you'll be old before your time. Look. Relax, take it easy, enjoy life!" John gave him a kiss on the lips that Colin rubbed and spit off before stomping away.

Colin's Murder in the Apartment:

Still walking home after being fired from work, Carol was in a complete daze about an accident that had occurred at an intersection. The rotting carcass of the beheaded rabbit in the living room was gathering more buzzing flies. Carol sat on the living room sofa in her nightgown, watching television. The three potatoes in the kitchen had sprouted even further. In the kitchen, the sink faucet was noisily dripping, and Carol heard the wall crack open up behind her. As she broke a tea biscuit before eating it, more cracks appeared in the apartment's walls. She realized her hand print made an impression in the clay-like walls. Then, the door bell began to ring incessantly.

The would-be rejected and humiliated suitor Colin appeared at Carol's door (he saw her looking at him through the peekhole) - and insistently asked:

Carol? Carol! 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!

She blurted out "No!", but he didn't hear her. He began pounding on the door, creating loud thud noises. When she wouldn't answer, he became frustrated and began taking running leaps against the door, as she cowered in fear - and picked up a nearby, very heavy candlestick holder. Eventually, he was able to violently burst through her door and penetrate into her apartment. Piano keys playing scales was softly heard through the open door. He turned around to apologize to her, but then insisted that he had to be with her:

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.

(The sound of the elevator arriving on the floor revealed that the neighbor - a potential witness - was returning after walking a dog)

Is it, uh, is it something I've done? Carol! Please, tell me. I'm not really like this, you know? Oh, 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.

When Colin turned his back to close the apartment door on the neighbor, she bludgeoned the threatening male multiple times on the head with the heavy candlestick holder, splattering blood onto the door as he quivered and died. She was shocked when blood streamed out from above Colin's right ear. She attempted to scream, but no sound came out - although the soundtrack provided a substitute. She barricaded the crooked and damaged front door with a wooden shelf plank from the kitchen, and then used an open paper-backed book to wipe Colin's blood off the inside of the door. She dragged his body (and the rug beneath him) into the bathroom and immersed him in the bathtub already full of water. She watched as blood streamed from his mouth to darken the water. He would be left there to rot underwater. [Note: Was the murder just an imaginative dream, or was it real?]

Carol's Continuing Fantasies of Rape and Violation:

Carol regressed into an earlier infantile stage - humming a childhood melody while sewing a dress ("Na ne na na... La le la la...").

After Carol retreated to her bedroom, she was again fantasizing 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 backwards out the doorway of Carol's bedroom, locating her lying down naked on the floor and partially draped with a blanket after the night's imagined orgy. She was awakened by the bell and noticed that a postcard sent from Pisa, Italy by Helen and Michael was slipped under the door. Helen wrote: "My Darling. Wonderful here. A thousand things to tell! 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 a second call, Carol cut the phone line with Michael's straight-edged razor. She looked out her window to look down and listen to the musical trio of buskers playing spoons who were passing by the front of the building on the street.

An Attempted Repulsive Rape by the Landlord - and a Second Murder:

Again, the doorbell rang - through the peephole, Carol saw the face of the apartment's middle-aged, creepy, sweaty, and lusty Landlord (Patrick Wymark). He commanded her to open the door ("I know you're in there. There's no use hiding. I'll call the police"), and barged in to collect Helen's late rent. He and immediately complained about five things, especially after noticing that his master key wouldn't work in the lock of the already-ajar door:

  • the damaged and barricaded front door: ("What's the idea of barricading the door against me? You're not only late with the rent, but you're damaging the property!")
  • the darkness of the place: ("Let's have a little light on the subject...I'm not a bloody owl, you know") - by the light of the window, he counted the rent-money cash in the envelope Helen had left for him
  • the filthy condition of the place: ("I thought I'd seen everything. This is a flamin' nut house!")
  • night-gowned Carol's flimsy and transparent nightgown, and her apparent sickly and ill situation: ("Do you always, uh, run around like, uh, this?")
  • the "pigsty" look and smell of the apartment (with its decaying and beheaded rabbit carcass and buzzing flies): ("No wonder you look ill if you have things like this hangin' around....Beats me how you young people can live in such a mess. It's like a pigsty!")

And then after bringing her a glass of water, he called her both a "poor little girl all by herself" and a "frightened animal":

There's, uh, no need to be alone, you know. Poor little girl! All by herself. All shaking like a little frightened animal.

The Landlord briefly asked about Carol's family picture taken in Brussels, and identified where she was in the photo. Then after the small talk, he proposed a sexual bargain to lessen her loneliness during her sister's absence - as the convent's annoying bell loudly clanged almost as a warning:

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 us, huh, come on.

When the lecherous landlord forced himself upon her on the sofa and attempted to sexually assault Carol, she fought him off. But then when he persisted and approached her for a kiss, she slashed out in a retaliatory way with Michael's straight-edged razor (hidden behind her back) that she had earlier picked up from the floor. 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.

Further Signs of Carol's Increasing Madness:

Carol's hallucinatory delusions intensified as she became trapped in the frightening apartment - now with two bloody corpses:

  • there were further wall cracks
  • she obsessively ironed 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 to await her sexual tormenter; accompanied by the sound of the convent's bell, she experienced another rape fantasy (3rd) with a man who appeared next to her in bed; as he grabbed her, her lipstick was smeared across her pillow; a table lamp was tipped over and smashed onto the floor
  • 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 narrow and dim 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 slowly collapsing onto her.

The Return of Helen and Michael - The Film's Ambiguous Ending:

During a heavy rainstorm at around 12:30 am, Helen and Michael returned after their two-week trip. As Michael parked the car, Helen pushed open the unlocked and damaged front door. She was the first to be stunned by preliminary signs of upheaval and disregard, plus a nasty smell, in both the kitchen and the living room. When she discovered the bloody body of Colin submerged in the bathtub, she screamed and began to hyperventilate in the hallway. Michael arrived and after noticing the carnage in the bathroom, he crossed the hallway to ask to use the phone of the dog-walking neighbor to call the police, but wasn't allowed access. He descended the apartment stairs to seek help by calling from the porter's room.

Meanwhile in the bedroom, Helen realized that the catatonic Carol was lifelessly lying under her own bed with her arm sticking out, and she reacted in shock. Inquisitive neighbors arrived, but Helen had turned mute. One of the stronger neighbors upturned the bed to reveal Carol on the floor. One kept cautioning: "You shouldn't touch her, you shouldn't move her," while another suggested: "I'll get us some brandy." Someone else said: "Don't go in the bathroom." The dog and the neighbor also entered the front doorway to observe.

Michael returned and entered the bedroom - ignoring commands to not touch her, he picked Carol up in his arms and carried her down the hallway. He paused to give Carol (with her eyes open!) strange (lustful?) glances before departing. Was he taking her for treatment in a mental institution, to an ambulance, to his own place (to rape the 'Cinderella' princess?), to the police, or something else?

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 mantelpiece in the living room. It focused on a view of the same young, mad-looking, aloof Carol staring angrily away. She appeared to be glaring at her father seated to her left. It was highly probable that her father was sexually abusive towards her (and had possibly molested her), contributing to her intensely withdrawn nature, sexual repression, and fear of men. But the film remained ambiguous as to why she had become so mentally disturbed.

The zoom ended with an extreme close-up that entered into Carol's eye.

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