This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
jack’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
This is a film of patience, a ticking time bomb just waiting to explode. This is a film of intimacy, both in the sick and twisted take of sexuality and the claustrophobia that seems to swarm the screen. This is a film of Horror, of the purest and most demented kind. This is a film that critiques the society it stems from, where the changing thought-processes are clashing with the ideas of old thought and belief. This is a film that dissects Religion until there's nothing left on the bone, questioning the belief of God is thought to be standard, while having a Religion that pertains to Him is deemed "strange" or "pointless." What is Religion? What is Culture? What does it mean to be intimate? What is normal?
Roman Polanski's "Rosemary's Baby" is met with many types of responses and interpretations --some positive and some negative-- and at the root of the film's reception is Polanski, himself a topic of controversy and distaste, and just how he wants his audience to see his picture, to take as much from the film as he shows so little. It can be aggrevating, as Polanski shoots Mia Farrow in a tailspin of bizarre close-ups and different angles to show her uncomfortableness, and this can lead to many different ideas about the film. What is "Rosemary's Baby?" A Horror? A Critique?
To start, it's first important to note that "Rosemary's Baby" is a relic of its time. No, not the things your grandmother has cloaked in dust at her house in that muggy box in the darkest corner of the basement that she's just waiting to pitch to you. A relic, or a representative of its time, containing themes that stem into reality during 1968 and the decade as a whole. The first question: Satan and Religion? Impossible! He's the villain, the thorn in God' ass, trying to turn His children away from the light. Religion is something of God's image. Here, in "Rosemary's Baby," that gets tossed into a corner. The "children" of Satan are the geezers telling you to keep your pants up with a belt, forcing food down your throat until you're about to burst. These are the people who've seen the world and know about its highs and avoid the lows. These are your grandpas and grandmas and they're mine, too. The rise of the Church of Satan began in the 60's, where many of its followers declared "Year One," a remark thrown in the film by Roman Castavet. This is a film where the norm changes; Catholicism falls out of place in "Rosemary's Baby." Rosemary finds herself "trapped" in her old ways --wanting to create the perfect home, wanting the children and the husband, attending Mass every Sunday-- and her neighbors and her husband ween her off of these ideas. They strip her of her friends, her beliefs, and her God, making her conform to their ideas, a bold, brash, and contradicting idea to what was deemed "normal." It's only disturbing because it's filled with elderly people, kind up front and rotten behind their doors.
People in the 1960's loved to rebel and the idea of the Church of Satan appeals to the youth. Fuck the ideas our parents want us to believe, fuck the God who we claim will save us, fuck whatever our parents do. They do exactly what the parents wouldn't do. "Rosemary's Baby" is a rebel, the boy on the motorcycle with the long black hair and the pierced ears and tattoos, smoking a cig whose here to pick up your baby girl and take her for a ride without that helmet. Rosemary is the parent, the ideas of the past. It's only fitting that she longs for a child, while the entire time, she's had this brat of a husband. Guy is that teenager, naively believing whatever these new and cooky neighbors have to say because it stands out from the rest. Guy whines when things don't go his way, he takes his anger out on Rosemary. When it's implied he rapes her, he's giddy and excited instead of feeling remorse or disgust (like Rosemary feels). He felt power. All that's on his mind is the fact that he had sex. It just so happens he did it in the most deplorable way.
And here we are, to the two people who clash on camera even more than anybody else: Mia Farrow and Roman Polanski, each the standouts in this showcase of Hell. It's Rosemary's fragility that drags us in, it's her clear lack of life that makes us feel. Farrow changes like a chameleon changes color, shifting from dotting wife to the host of a parasite. Gaunt, white as chalk, and unstable, we're capivated by Farrow's all timer performance because we've seen the 9 month change; there's not a second where someone believes she's acting, this is real time and she is suffering. Polanski intensifies this with his intimate direction, spiraling around Rosemary's descent into Hell like a carousel spins the kids. The apartment, thanks to Polanski's intimacy, feels smaller every time we're in it; there are shots where I'm convinced I'm having a panic attack, my spaces around me are closing in on me, too. I'm going to die. Rosemary and I are dying in this apartment.
And the end? We've just given up. Rosemary's conformed to the new wave of thought, as she cradles her devil boy in the black bed with the flipped cross acting as a mobile. The implanting of change has spread throughout the film by Rosemary's peers, who've isolated her old ways and her old friends and her old self, and morphed it into this tired, weak, and frightened woman. She's more broken than anyone. All she can do now is shake the cradle and hope her baby won't stop crying, her humming soothes the child into sleep, but keeps us shaking until the credits stop.
Also: fuck you, Roman Polanski, but that's a given.