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This movie is an amazing accomplishment - it manages to get under your skin and give you sleepless nights with almost no display of gore (there is one slightly gory scene), violence (there is one rape scene, but it is not very disturbing due to its implausibility) or pale ghosts with long hair. When the movie started, I was a bit underwhelmed because it seemed like just an ordinary drama. This was intentional I suppose - the director was shooting for a gradual build up of the feeling of dread. I wasn't prepared for how disturbing the movie would eventually get. As Rosemary's sense of paranoia and feelings of despair increased, I found myself empathizing with her. The tragic culmination was absolutely perfectly done, and I felt a sense hopelessness for Rosemary's situation, almost like she was a family member or a close friend. Not many psychological thrillers / horror movies have had this effect on me, and for this reason, I highly recommend it to people who are looking for horror movies that deliver more than just a few scares.
A young couple moves into a New York City apartment, where strange things start happening. Making his first American film, Polanski expertly creates a suspenseful atmosphere where tension builds slowly but surely in this influential supernatural thriller, helped by a haunting score. As with his earlier "Repulsion," the director conveys horror not so much by what is shown as what is suggested. As a young woman undergoing a difficult pregnancy, to put it mildly, Farrow is terrific in a star-making turn. Cassavetes may be miscast as her husband, but Gordon and Blackmer are quite effective as nosy neighbors. The cast features such familiar faces as Bellamy, Cook, Henry, and Grodin.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Hierarchy is often a way to do as efficiently as possible what ought
not to be done at all; a machine for compelling people to do what they
have no direct rational interest in doing, for the benefit of those
with whom they have a fundamental conflict of interest." - Ursula Le
Ira Levin specialised in Feminist horror novels. His 1972 novel, "The Stepford Wives", for example, featured a housewife whose husband colludes with a cabal of men responsible for creating a fleet of submissive, female robots. Levin's 1967 novel, "Rosemary's Baby", does a similar thing. Adapted by director Roman Polanski, it stars Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes as a young couple who move into a Gothic apartment complex (The Dakota, where John Lennon was shot).
From the onset, Farrow's character, Rosemary Woodhouse, is portrayed as a docile American housewife. Meek and waifish, she's a doting stay-at-home woman who's entirely dependent upon her husband. Elsewhere men are portrayed as being controlling, manipulative and aggressive, whilst women are consigned to traditionally feminine realms (cooking, cleaning, jewellery, gardening, knitting etc), infantilized at the hands of a monolithic, male dominated society.
One must remember that the 1960s featured many high profile debates on both abortion and the status of women as legitimate political and legal subjects. Women's movements were gaining momentum and were beginning to repeal abortion laws, fight for the right to self-determination, and seize control of the means of reproduction from a medical profession considered to be elitist and patriarchal. In this regard, Levin's novel took Rosemary and used her as a locus for a very specific culture war. It gathered numerous examples of patriarchal dominance (religion, the medical establishment, marriage etc) and featured them repeatedly vying for control of Rosemary's body. She was then bullied into passivity, subjected to outrageous coercion and eventually pushed into madness and paranoia. Rosemary was herself an agent of her own submission, the poor girl repeatedly rationalising her suffering as being "all her fault".
Midway in both film and novel, Rosemary and her husband, the aptly named Guy, resolve to have a baby. But unbeknownst to Rosemary, Guy has made a Faustian pact with a Satanic couple living next door. In return for career advancements, he will turn Rosemary's body over to Satan so that she may be raped and so give birth to the Prince of Darkness. This, of course, is a perverse take on the Bible's Immaculate Conception (also featuring a Mary). The names of the devious neighbours (Roman and Minnie Castevet) themselves conjure up the other two men meta-controlling Rosemary: John Cassavetes and Roman Polanski himself.
With at least 12 films overtly or covertly about rape, no mainstream film director has made more films "about" sexual violation than Roman Polanski. Polanski would himself be charged with raping a 13 year old girl in 1977. In real life he seems to also have a sexual predilection for young girls and teenage actresses, though his films often sympathise with the rape victim (not always; at least 3 posit the "rapist" as being unjustly bullied and/or victimised).
In "Rosemary Baby", of course, Rosemary is raped. There is some ambiguity surrounding this incident Rosemary is either raped by her husband, given to Roman Castevet himself as a sexual favour or literally raped by Satan but most readings have the same political subtext. Another reading sees Rosemary's persecutions as being "imagined" and "all in her head", her anxieties a result of her pregnancy, lapsed Catholicism and various domestic/maternal insecurities. The film supports this view, but accepting it turns the audience into villains, bullies equal to Guy and his neighbours. While horror movies routinely offer misogynistic repudiations of the maternal body, of the "monsterous feminine" ("Alien", "Jurassic Park" etc), and while, on the level of biology alone, the foetus is literally a parasite, separate from the mother's body, taking everything and contributing nothing to her sustenance, the film itself seems to be doing something completely else. Rosemary's paranoia is valid precisely because sexist social relations are clearly conspiring against her. Her doctors, various paternalistic authority figures, her husband, her neighbours, a male dominated medical profession...they're all colluding against Rosemary. It's another of Polanski's Kafkaesque conspiracy plots; the world really is out to get you.
Significantly, characters are constantly telling Rosemary not to read books or outright removing books from her possession. Her apartment bookshelf is itself filled with books which Guy strategically keeps out of reach, namely Kinsey's reports, "Listening with the Third Ear" and "Yes I Can", all books on self-empowerment and self-understanding. The goal is to keep Rosemary dumb, dependent and isolated. And the only scene in which Rosemary is shown to mingle with female friends boisterous feministas who rally to her defence is precisely the scene which spurs Guy into revealing his sexism. "Pain is a warning something isn't right," Rosemary says, repeating the mantra of her proto-feminist sisters. But Guy shoots her down: "don't listen to those bi**es!" Emancipation remains out of reach.
The film's title has an ironic twang (Rosemary's "baby" is not her baby, she didn't consent to its conception, indeed, Rosemary is herself the film's baby). Its aesthetic is Hitchcock meets New Hollywood, whilst the film itself serves as a perverse bridge from Old Hollywood to New, with many familiar faces from the Golden Age cast against type and given significant parts (Ralph Bellamy, Patsy Kelly, Sidney Blackmer, Ruth Gordon, Elisha Cook etc). Smoothly directed and misstepping only occasionally with some moments of comedy and overt "gore", the film's still influential to this day. Emblematic of the film's impact, Farrow's pixie haircut still pops up in modern horror movies ("Birth", "The Astronauts Wife" etc").
8.5/10 - Classic.
Times have changed.
In it's time, Rosemary's Baby was regarded as a horror classic. It still is, to an extent. But to tell the truth, more than 40 years after its release, the definition of horror, in cinema, has unquestionably changed greatly, and, in these days, not having, as it does, any over-the-top gore or jump moments, Rosemary's Baby may no longer scare.
In fact, if I found anything really unnerving in the film, it was that expression, on the face of Mia Farrow transcendentally evoking Rosemary, in the final 2 minutes. It made me grateful that the film ended there, without showing what followed thereafter ...
For, as Polanski tells the story, we already know, or at least have guessed, about halfway through the film, all about Rosemary's baby, even when it is still in utero, though Rosemary herself may not. And THAT is where the supreme artistry of the film lies. Horrifying though it may not be any more, it still is chilling, and chilling to the core, as the fate of Rosemary herself always remains entirely unknown, till the very end. And that is also why the ambiguity in Mia Farrow's parting expression remains so disturbing, and stays etched in the memory much after the film itself has ended.
I cannot figure out, for the life of me, why Mia Farrow did not get an Academy Award for her performance. Ruth Gordon did, of course, for playing the perfect foil, as Minnie Castavetes, to Mia's Rosemary. Mia's indecisions, her fear, her abject terror at the threat she perceives to the life of her unborn child, far transcend the limits of the script, and stamp themselves indelibly on the psyche. It is truly a bravura effort, and carries the character to a level where Mia and Rosemary become entirely indistinguishable. To say the least, it can serve as a textbook example for anyone who wants to learn what acting is all about.
Equally inspired - if not, however, equally challenging - are, unquestionably, the performances of Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer as Minnie and Roman Castevet. I particularly liked the sly ambivalence with which Blakmer delineates his character, so starkly in contrast to his wife's menacingly overbearing effervescence.
The premise of the film is undoubtedly far-fetched and difficult to believe or digest, and, in the hands of a less inspired cast, may have been reduced to B-grade phatasmagoria. As it is, however, as conceived and created by Polanski and as executed by Farrow, Gordon and Blackmer, it is nothing short of art on celluloid.
Rewarding and memorably disturbing viewing, more than 40 years after it was made.
One of the most remarkable things about this fine film is how little it has dated in almost half a century. Despite the lack of cell phones, computers and other current technology there is little to distract modern audiences from the plot. It's not like watching an old movie at all. Another phenomenal aspect is how well Polanski (a newcomer to the US at the time) conveyed such a trenchant feel for New York City. The direction is sure-handed and the action is well- paced. There are just the right amounts of humor thrown in to relieve the tension. "Rosemary's Baby" and "Chinatown" are unquestionably rivals for Polanski's best film. I think this one has the edge, as I defy anyone to not identify with the main character early on through to the end. The dream sequence is pure Polanski. In "Repulsion" he tried to make a whole film out of essentially a dream sequence, and it's rather contrived. Here, the surreal touches don't drive the action off course. Mia Farrow is perfect for the part and at age 23 holds her own against seasoned actors a generation or two older. John Cassavetes, who is very good as the husband, always struck me as a bit too old for the part of a struggling actor just starting out (he was 38). The supporting cast is superb, with Ruth Gordon stealing the show (and an Oscar in the process) and Patsy Kelly running a close second. "Rosemary's Baby" holds up well to repeated viewings and continues to entertain even after you know where all this is going. It has all the hallmarks of a classic.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In Roman Polanski's first American film that is adapted from Ira
Levin's horror bestseller, a young wife comes to believe that her
offspring is not of this world.The film,entitled Rosemar's
Baby,features Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, Maurice Evans,
Sidney Blackmer and Charles Grodin.Farrow plays a pregnant woman who
fears that her husband may have made a pact with their eccentric
neighbors, believing he may have promised them the child to be used as
a human sacrifice in their occult rituals in exchange for success in
his acting career.
Rosemary Woodhouse and her struggling actor husband, Guy move into the Bramford, an old New York City apartment building with an ominous reputation and only elderly residents. Neighbors Roman and Minnie Castevet soon come nosing around to welcome the Woodhouses to the building; despite Rosemary's reservations about their eccentricity and the weird noises that she keeps hearing, Guy starts spending time with the Castevets. Shortly after Guy lands a plum Broadway role, Minnie starts showing up with homemade chocolate mousse for Rosemary. When Rosemary becomes pregnant after a mousse-provoked nightmare of being raped by a beast, the Castevets take a special interest in her welfare. As the sickened Rosemary becomes increasingly isolated, she begins to suspect that the Castevets' circle is not what it seems. The diabolical truth is revealed only after Rosemary gives birth, and the baby is taken away from her.
This is a frightening tale of Satanism and pregnancy that is even more disturbing than it sounds thanks to convincing and committed performances by Mia Farrow and Ruth Gordon.In addition to that,Polanski's camera-work and Richard Sylbert's production design transform the realistic setting into a sinister projection of Rosemary's fears, chillingly locating supernatural horror in the familiar by leaving the most grotesque frights to the viewer's imagination. Having escaped the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust in Poland by the skin of his teeth, Mr. Polanski was well equipped psychologically to re- imagine what was, before Rosemary's Baby, a B-picture genre into an A- picture genre.And four decades later,his supremely mounted horror thriller holds up extremely well.
Moving into a lavish apartment complex, a woman becomes increasingly
concerned of the elderly residents' concern of her after becoming
pregnant and gradually uncovers a sinister plot to offer her unborn
baby to their devilsh master.
This here manages to be one of the enjoyable and entertaining classic horror efforts around. With the only real problem within being a languished pace that really draws the running time up and make it far longer than it really needs to be, there's a lot to like here. One of the best aspects utilized here is the slow-burn pacing that runs through here as the events wind themselves around her entire pregnancy and that allows for the gradual unraveling of the clues, from the older couples constant interference in their daily lives and offering pregnancy tips and advice, the constant rebuttals of anything she feels as out-of-the-ordinary being commonplace and finally the gag with the name really cluing in the final act. While none of this is really centered around a series of jolts or shocks or even anything creepy beyond the hallucinogenic impregnation, that this really remains watchable as nothing happens is a strong suit of the film and really works quite well in keeping this one interesting. Of course, the finally is all sorts of creepy and chilling, giving this another solid point about it and really generating a lot of excitement about it, making it one of the more rewarding experiences around.
Today's Rating-R: Violence, Nudity, Language and a drug-laced Rape scene.
Rosemary's Baby, unlike the vast majority of horror films, remains
decades after its release as terrifying and unnerving as it must have
been when it was first shown to audiences. This is due mainly to
writer/director Roman Polanski and the universally believable and
creepy performances of the cast. Having never read the book, what
becomes apparent almost immediately is the overwhelming sense of dread
hanging over these characters, despite the fact that the story starts
out so innocently.
Being Polanski's first Hollywood film, it remains astonishing how in control and consistent his direction of this film is. Never straining for cheap thrills or exploitative emotions, Polanski shows here why he is to be considered among the best of directors. Each shot sets up what will happen next and the screenplay does not create a situation in which he characters are acted upon by the impersonal force of the plot. Rather, it is the characters who inject the plot with occurrences, making the end result that much more believable and unsettling.
As for the performances, Mia Farrow may never have found as iconic a role as she did with Rosemary Woodhouse the sweet, innocent, somewhat naive but very observant and intelligent young housewife who finds herself caught up in situations beyond her control. We empathize with her because her motivations are pure and she is as likable as a screen character can be. This is offset by the warmly creepy presence of the Castevets, played brilliantly by Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer. Even John Cassavetes, better known today as America's first independent filmmaker, gives a quietly disturbing performance as the loving husband who turns out to be something we could not imagine.
Over forty years after its release, Rosemary's Baby continues to send chills up the spine and remains a watershed in horror film history. It needs no special effects or ugly creatures to inspire dread and fear. It does this the old-fashioned way: acting and direction.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie is down right creepy, which makes it an achievement. I did not think movies of this era could be so creepy (code or no code). Mia farrow does an amazing job in such a demanding role. You can see her change over the course of the film from a happy newlywed to a scared, paranoid basket case. It is incredible. You just feel worse and worse for this poor women as everything around her falls to pieces. Her husband goes behind her back but at the same time forces her into doing things she does not, the old neighbors manipulate her and almost everyone that is helpful to the poor girl commits suicide or dies. Leading up to the worst part of all, giving birth to the son of Satan!
Rosemary's Baby (1968) Film Review
Rosemary's baby is really amazing, frightening and so beautiful. I think this movie is really burrow deep in one's psyche. One can easily feel all the events in the film. The film has a potential to require me to use a night light.
Roman Polanski made his American directorial debut with this wonderfully sinister film. The first hour feels like a French New Wave movie in the vein of Godard's Breathless. There's definitely a European sensibility to Polanski's direction which is understandable.
Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes play young newlyweds who move into a Gothic apartment in New York previously inhabited by an old woman who recently died. Down the hall live an strange elderly couple who befriend their young neighbors. They seem like good intentions. One night, Rosemary has a nightmare in which she is raped by the devil himself. Upon waking up, she realizes that her husband was having marital relations with her at the moment she was dreaming.
Soon after she learns of her pregnancy. Her husband has conveniently found success as an actor. Rosemary continually feels sharp pain. Eventually, with the goading of a recently deceased friend of hers, Rosemary begins to distrust everyone around her, including her husband, her neighbors and her doctor. Perhaps she's suffering from pericardium delusions, or maybe there is a palpable evil that's always nearby.
Mia Farrow, who was known to most at the time as Mrs. Frank Sinatra, gives an amazing performance in a really difficult role. She must be likable, yet cold and distant all at once. For much of the film, Rosemary suffers quite a bit while maintaining a cool demeanor. The final scene, especially, is so over the top that I can't even begin to imagine how Farrow was able to find her motivations. The supporting cast, including Gordon who's always fun to watch on screen even if she really can only play one type of character, does fine work, especially cinema verity pioneer director Cassavetes.
There are a handful of moments that are a bit too contrived to work, so the movie isn't quite a masterpiece. The whole sequence with the anagram from the book makes little sense. Further, Rosemary transitions from slightly anxious to appearing downright psychotic perhaps a little too quickly. The aforementioned climactic sequence goes down as one of the wackiest ever while proving profoundly unsettling at the same time. Perhaps it might have been even better if everything at the end wasn't so staged. The New Wave style is abandoned during the final act when the horror takes full effect, which does invite the viewer to disconnect slightly. If even these freakish moments had been played straightforwardly, the film as a whole might have proved even scarier than it ended up.
Rosemary's Baby isn't just about the ridiculously impossible. It's also a scary metaphor for motherhood. Having never been pregnant myself, I can only begin to imagine the anxieties that go along with bringing another human life to term. It would only be natural to wonder if one's baby is going to be healthy, and what kind of person that baby will grow up to be. Rosemary's horror is shared by all mothers in many different ways. The responsibilities that go along with parenting are enough to make people think twice about having children in the first place. Of course, the decision Rosemary must tackle at the end of the film is beyond any mother's worst fantasies. Still, though, having children can be, among other things, horrifying.
A palpable fear of Satan having tangible power in this world is an irrational one, and yet, as a cinematic theme, it's still as in vogue as it was back in the late 60's and early 70's with films like The Last Exorcism and the upcoming film Priest. Maybe it's the idea of evil itself actually able to reason independently, much like humans, that really gets to people. Rosemary's Baby won't force me to sleep with my light on tonight, but it does make me hope that my dreaming remains at a minimum for quite a while. Also, it might be a good idea for me to take a home pregnancy test, you know, just to be safe.
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