Everyone should be able to relate to Roman Polanski’s Repulsion – after all, who hasn’t gone a little crazy when their flatmates went out of town? Spending the week in the same dressing gown, killing time (and maybe some other things) … we’ve all been there.
Repulsion is a dizzying spiralling descent into psychosis, crafted with fastidious cinematography that evokes a disquieting feeling of half-sleep aided by a jittery, creaky soundtrack. It could be a companion piece to Eraserhead (and I would be surprised if it wasn’t a significant influence on Lynch’s masterpiece); each film delves into their protagonist’s psyche with surreal, nightmarish imagery and a spare monochrome palette. Eraserhead’s madness is impelled by fear of parenthood, but Repulsion’s triggers are isolation and a history of sexual abuse, the latter suggested with sinister subtlety.
There’s commendable patience here; while a modern remake of Repulsion might spend most of the film trapped in the apartment with Carol (Catherine Deneuve), the first half of the film merely hints at her instability. It’s not just her reserved, awkward demeanour, but the cracks that run through the pavement beneath her and the street excavation she walks past daily as it accrues debris, becoming chaotic rubble.