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Polanski's first American film is one of the most enduring films of the 60's. Well-received when released in 1968, Rosemary's Baby is that rare film that grows more impressive with repeated viewings. It's a near perfect, multi-layered classic that mixes psychological horror with supernatural suspense while being funny, scary, and ironic. No remake could ever come close and the spate of films it inspired, most notably the The Exorcist and The Omen, pale by comparison. Expertly directed by Polanski, the film is perfectly cast and splendidly acted by all. Ruth Gordon won the Oscar for supporting actress, but Farrow, who is in every scene, wasn't even nominated for her iconic portrayal. The entire film is told from Rosemary's point of view. The growing sense of menace and paranoia is beautifully handled, and the audience is with Farrow and her unborn child every step of the way. On one level Rosemary's Baby is the ultimate tribute to motherhood. A winner any way you look at it. Consider it essential viewing. Among others, French film director Francois Truffaut expressed great admiration for the film, and Rosemary's Baby deserved a place on the AFI's top 100.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Having watched this fantastic movie from teens up until last Saturday I
cannot rate it enough. This sinister story with a satanic underbelly
keeps me gripped from start to finish and it seems every time i watch
it I notice something new. I won't bother going into the story of what
it is about as there have been enough synopsis before me but i just
wanted to highlight the things that i love about the story:- 1) When
Rosemary and Guy are first shown around the apartment and the caretaker
notices that the cabinet is hiding a cupboard (we the viewer
immediately want to know what's in there and why it's covered up) 2)
When Terry is found on the pavement, Rosemary intervenes when the
Castavette's say she has no family, she say's, "Doesn't she have a
brother in the navy" and immediately Minny puts on her glasses to see
who else knows about Terry in case they are suspected of something.
3) When Rosemary and guy have dinner with Castavettes and she is helping Minnie wash up, the first sinister inkling is when Rosemary looks from the kitchen into the living rm and just see's smoke coming from Guy and Roman (you just want to know what's being said).
I could go on and on but it's the subtle things that make this movie stand out and it is definitely one of my top 10 movies of all time.
Ira Levin's Rosemary's Baby was adapted by Polish director Roman Polanski,
who in his American directing debut, created a horror film that contained
gore, practically no blood, no characters with knives and other weapons.
Just the feeling of constant dredd and confusion over the fate of a
child. Mia Farrow plays Rosemary Woodhouse, wife of a struggling actor,
finds a new apartment in New York called the Dakota. Here, they meet some
neighbors (one of which is the impecable, Oscar winning Ruth Gordon) who
befriend them, invite themselves over whenever, and even bring food as
gifts. Rosemary and her husband, played by director John Cassavettes,
about having a baby, but aren't sure if the time is right. Then one
after having a drink that the "friendly" neighbor brings over, they make
love to concieve, though that may or may not be how Rosemary sees it "this
is not a dream, this is really happening!" From then on, the film
as Rosemary gets pregnant, is recommended a doctor (Ralph Bellamy) who may
or may not be giving her the right medical advise, and as she enters her
thirs trimester, she starts to realize something is fishy about her
neighbors, and her un-born child.
Like Polanski's 1965 film Repulsion, the viewer gets a feeling of something that one could feel in such horror films as Texas Chainsaw Massacre or, more appropriately, the Blair Witch Project- we feel scared or in a state os suspense not because of what we see, but of what we don't see and can't figure out. Those who want to compare this to The first Exorcist need to know that this is the European perspective of a Satan story, and that this builds more brilliantly on claustrophobia while the other builds on the un-expected with style. Overall, Rosemary's Baby is a remarkable achievement in the genre, and in the very last moment in the end, the sense of acceptance Rosemary achieves is possibly the most scariest thing about it.
As I mentioned in the one line summary, there are two shots that to me represent the kind of startling and, bizarrely, even funny double edged sword Polanski can pull in films like this (see also John Huston in Chinatown): the one shot of the "devil" on top of Rosemary will make some drop their mouths open in shock, as did I, but I was sort of laughing at it too, in the manner of how she's so calm in the scene. Another is in the climax, when the witches are gazing proudly at their master's new bouncing baby boy, and out of nowhere there's a little Chinese guy with a camera taking pictures. I'm not sure if this is a detail Polanski took from the book, or if he threw it in himself, but it's rather amazing that this person appears in a group of Satan galvanizers. Grade: A+
What struck me most about this film is something that I don't think anyone has mentioned yet which is the use of colour. For a large section of the film, the overwhelmingly predominant colour is yellow, traditionally the colour of Satan. Then, as the birth draws near and after the birth, blue is brought in, an allusion to the Virgin Mary. There are many scenes symbolically comparing her to Mary, notably one while she is giving birth with her head on a pillow with yellow stripes on it so it appears she has a halo. There are so many things like that to notice, which is one of the reasons I love it so much.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A gorgeous piece of sustained suspense filmmaking. Polanski is
leisurely in his pacing and camera-work, with long takes and assured
movement. Focusing on the environment, the use of sight and sound, and
the performances, to build the story. It's really just a perfect movie.
There isn't a wasted shot, nor clunky editing, nor melodrama to be
Mia Farrow is perfect as the fragile waif Rosemary, and John Cassavetes does a lot with a role that is intentionally underwritten. He sells everything Guy is going through by sheer force of acting will. Ruth Gordon, who won a hard to contest Oscar, and Sidney Blackmer play the nosey old couple next door to sublime exactness.
Not so much a horror movie, as a story that contains horror elements, although there are moments of terror to be found. Used sparingly and as a result, effectively. Mia's rape scene, with its use of hallucinogenic scenery and flashes of Satan is chilling in its implications. Rosemary's reaction to her first sight of the baby is blood-curdling. But maybe what's most scary is the choice she makes to end the movie. These help the movie to get under your skin, so much so that by the film's climax you don't realize how much stress you've been put under. The movie conveys the paranoia and lonesomeness of Rosemary without drawing attention to itself.
There are plenty of themes explored here. It was 1968, at the height of women's lib and Rosemary is a dependent who has shunned both God and family to get to where she is. She has no sense of self, really, outside of Guy. Her haircut, and then her baby become these things. Is she being punished for not being more independent? Was that her birth by fire into modern womanhood? There's paranoia and xenophobia, about the people next door, the people you think you know (but do you?) and the "old ways" all set within one of the most populated cities on the planet, and yet a person can still feel all alone.
A great movie, a great story, doesn't have to be about any one of those themes, but it's all there for the taking. It's small pricklings of common human thinking and modern anxieties that can help fuel the subtext of a good story well told.
While Rosemary's Baby is often dubbed a horror film, the contemporary viewer may find that generic attribution confusing. Due to its slow pace and reliance on less-traditional formal tools to create suspense, Rosemary's Baby, like Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980), is best described as a psychological thriller or suspense story. Polanski's film, adapted from a novel by Ira Levin, isn't furnished with bloody murders and shocking off-screen entrances. Rather, what makes Rosemary's Baby terrifying is the sense of inevitability. Yes, this inevitability not only manifests itself in the plot, as Rosemary is incapable of stopping the plans set in motion by her neighbors, but from the audience as well. Polanski cues us in to the cult's true intent quite early with the aid of surrealistic dream sequence, so we're aware of Rosemary's potential fate far sooner than she is. Hitchcock once described the difference between surprise and suspense as involving the knowledge of the audience, concluding that in order to fully capitalize upon suspense, "the public must be informed."
It should come as no surprise that "Rosemary's Baby" ranks in the top 250 on IMDb; I, however, would rank it even higher than the general public does. It's the kind of film you can watch occasionally over the years and enjoy each and every time, i.e., a classic. Technically the film is brilliant, with superb cinematography, editing, music, acting, art design, and masterful direction. Polanski captures the timeless essence of New York, at least as I remember it, even though the setting is unmistakably the 1960s, and the milieu is literally diabolical. Depending on how you look at it, you can enjoy the film as a supernatural thriller or as a psychological thriller and study in paranoia. I especially love the dream sequences, which have a surreal beauty and nightmarish logic of their own.
The stylish, ambitious, chaotic mess of 1965's Repulsion was condensed
to its purest form in Rosemary's Baby, Polanski's first real
masterpiece and, along with Chinatown, his most memorable work.
Rosemary's Baby took some cues from Hitchcock's work, but by its own
right it revolutionized horror cinema, and had a huge part in inspiring
classics from Jaws to The Shining and The Thing - films that took to
heart the lesson that nothing is scarier than nothing, and maintain
tension and terror throughout with very little actually happening.
Partly thanks to the film's minimalistic nature (most of it takes place in one apartment, not unlike Repulsion) and the refusal to rely on special effects, and partly thanks to Polanski's inspired directorial work, Rosemary's Baby stood the test of time better than any horror film of its time - indeed, better than most films of the 60's. Young viewers more accustomed to slasher horror may scoff at how little happens, but once you start watching the feeling of terror and discomfort grows and it's impossible not to be taken in, especially if you've anywhere near the protagonists' age. Mya Farrow and John Cassavetes are terrific in the leads, probably delivering the most powerful performances in their careers; and their show is nearly stolen by the irritating, charming, creepy, lovable Ruth Gordon (who won a very deserved Oscar for her part).
Very few films are as timeless as Rosemary's Baby, and few are as absorbing and effective. A must-see for every film lover.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Roman Polanski's "Rosemary's Baby" is a truly gripping tale into that does everything a classic horror movie should do. Forgoing excessive blood and cheesy monster costumes, the film builds up slowly and subtly to the point where any film-goer would be filled to the brim with tension and fear for what is next to come. After multiple viewings, little subtleties become absurdly visible, such as the recurring color of red or the blatant ignorance of Rosemary as she is manipulated by the wills of all those around her. All in all, this is a genuinely horrifying masterpiece that should not be missed (with an exception for the faint of heart).
This is how horror films need to be made. Aside from The House of the Devil (a beautiful throwback to this period of the genre) there aren't any films that can so perfectly create this kind of a chilling atmosphere that keeps your skin tingling from start to finish. From the haunting echo of Mia Farrow's voice eerily leading us in, Rosemary's Baby immediately absorbs you into it's world and never lets you out. That's the perfect word for this; absorbing. Roman Polanski is one of cinema's finest directors and what makes him stand as such is how perfectly he can create an atmosphere. Even in his few failures he crafts a unique and full atmosphere that is expertly made for the film he's creating. He's one of the few directors who always know what he's doing and always creates a complete vision that never wavers. That's on display in spades in Rosemary's Baby, a film that drives mystery, supernatural paranoia and the fears of any pregnant woman into the heart of the viewer. With the help of a revelatory performance in terror from Farrow, Polanski creates a truly perfect film.
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