Today I watched Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Mia Farrow plays the titular Rosemary who has just moved into a new apartment with her husband Guy. The place they move into is a huge antique apartment in New York, with a building full of lovably kooky neighbors. Rosemary and Guy want to make a baby which partially prompted the move to this large dwelling but as they work towards this, Rosemary starts to have strange experiences and visions. On the night they planned to make love she finds herself ill and dreams of being raped by the Devil while Guy watches. Disturbed by the mysterious circumstances that surround her, Rosemary becomes increasingly paranoid, which is not helped by the unnatural pains she feels.
Polanski imbues this movie with a deep seated fear of the everyday, fear of the unknown hiding within the supposedly known. He portrays satanists as everyday people who you might run into on the street, people you would not identify as malignant until far too late. There are other horrors here too, all equally as mundane. Most notable are fears relating to pregnancy and health and also fears of a failing relationship. The first part comes across pretty obviously in the premise, but the second aspect, failing relationships, is more subtle. Rosemary and Guy’s relationship is so well realized that the broken elements stand out in a disturbingly real way, we can see how they are beginning to chafe against one another because more likely than not we have had relationships disintegrate in similar ways.
This fear of the unknown within the known and fear of the mundane works wonders and makes this one of the more disturbing films out there. Polanski brings out the horror with the utmost subtlety, never resorting to crude or over the top techniques except in rare dream sequences which serve as punctuation marks to the slow building dread. What makes this movie even more difficult is how what happened in it reflects events in Polanski’s life that transpired the following year, Polanski’s wife Sharon Tate was murdered by the Manson Family while pregnant. This makes this film one of the most disturbing examples of life imitating art, a truly distressing thing to think about. The tragedy has only increased the mystique of this work though, as powerful and haunting a horror film as there has ever been. 5/5