zaheen’s review published on Letterboxd:
This is, to full effect, AMAZINGLY directed. Roman Polanski (ew) is honestly such a mesmerizing director. You get this feeling when watching his films, that you're watching *cinema*. There's just something so elusive, dreamy, hallucinatory, and obscure about his films. In Chinatown and here, he makes a point to hold the camera close to the characters and make expressive zoom-ins and zoom-outs. This adds a sense of foreboding inevitability, a common feeling in both Chinatown and this film. The acting is incredible and quite nuanced. It allows for the story to feel real and believable, which is the scariest type of horror. Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes are the standouts. The score is both beautiful and haunting, further accessorizing the slow fall into madness.
This film is dense. There's so much to unpack. From biblical allusions to references to blind belief of authority, there's too much to address thematically. So I'll try to write about how the film feels and what I think it's about overall. This film is extremely unsettling. It grabs you by the hand and politely walks you into a pit of confusion. Throughout the film, you feel as though you have a grasp of what is happening but because of the directing and performances there’s a feeling in the back of your mind that Rosemary is just as crazy as everyone says she is. The environment around Rosemary is crafted so well that its believability wins you over and makes the film that much more unsettling. The terror is in the buildup and not the actual archetypal “scare.” That is what makes the film masterful horror.
I think the film is stands of a critique of society in the 1960’s through surreal yet believable occurrences during that time period. We see Polanski antagonize the rise of satanism during the time, critique showbusiness and materialism, and criticizes the role of women in society of the time. Rosemary’s individuality is practically nonexistent throughout the film. Everything she does is criticized, her haircut, her house decorations, her friends. She’s not allowed to read books either. She just conforms and conforms. In the ending she conforms as well. Dr. Hill also symbolizes society as a whole. He gives her up to the men who are supposed to be in charge of her instead of trying to understand the female perspective. He thinks he’s doing what is right for her but he’s really adding more fuel to the fire. The film shows us that the actual horror isn’t even the underworld, it’s right here. It’s truly brilliant storytelling.
Rosemary’s Baby is a film that is obvious in its power and influence after watching it in 2019. It remains extremely ambitious over 60 years later. I feel as though every psychological horror film is indebted to this film, as Polanski has created something that is definitive and classic to the highest degree.