Rosemary's Baby

Rosemary's Baby ★★★★★

Abusing Rosemary

A young woman surrenders her freedom to others out of trust, ignorance and politeness. She's at the mercy of everyone; her husband, the eccentric couple next door, her obstetrician. In a sweet, well-meaning way, each one gently coaxes her further into a primordial nightmare. The jammed sidewalks and rustic skyscrapers of Manhattan become a shrinking prison closing her in.

One morning, after a terrible dream, she wakes with scratches running down her back and her husband admits to having sex with her while she was unconscious. 'It was fun', he says, flitting distractedly around their apartment, 'in a necrophile sort of way'. The implication is that this is the right of any husband, and he's so convincing that she can barely admit she's upset. It's isn't the first of the blurry injustices purported on Rosemary, and it's definitely not the worst. The widening curve of her belly, which should fill her with happy expectation, only grows heavier and makes her less able to defend herself. She is deconstructed until she has no rights, not even to her own body, and the perpetrators manage it all with little more than smiling, off-hand remarks made casually over dinner.

The violations against Rosemary are what make the movie so fascinating. They're disguised as favours, as over-protective gestures, as an old woman's harmless curiosity - nuisances, that's all. The Castavet's are very neighbourly and she should be grateful for their help. Her husband is rational and good-humoured, and Dr. Sapirstein is an accomplished (if somewhat dismissive) physician. Is it possible they could all be conspiring against her? Perhaps it's just pre-partum jitters; a manifestation of her unconscious anxieties about giving birth. A sudden appetite for blood-red meat is an unusual pregnancy craving, but never mind. Only crazy people believe in witches.

The slow, dripping deprivation of Rosemary's liberties come in flushes that rise steadily and congeal. When a group of girlfriends barricade the kitchen just so Rosemary can sit and cry without distraction we almost cheer with relief. She is never alone, never not being watched. The unthinkable is happening to her - inside of her - and it's so outrageous that no rational human being could ever accept her story. There is nothing wrong with Rosemary - it's everything around her that is wrong, but only we know that. Ever more desperately do we believe Rosemary, and ever more fervently do we pray for her baby.

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