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United Kingdom 1965
Directed by
Roman Polanski
105 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
5 stars


Polanski's first English language film stars Catherine Deneuve in her most memorable role as a sexually-repressed young woman experiencing a mental breakdown who sequesters herself in her sister's flat whilst the latter is away on holidays.

The film explores themes that Polanksi would revisit in Rosemary's Baby (1968) and The Tenant (1976) but neither have the extraordinary intensity and economy, not to mention period charm  of this film, including nice black and white photography of London streetscapes by Gilbert Taylor and a jazzy score by Chico Hamilton. Polanksi, who co-wrote the screenplay with Gérard Brach does not offer any explanation of Carol's breakdown (bar a tangential reference to convent schooling) but instead gives a brilliantly succinct (there is very little dialogue and none of a "meta" psychologising nature) portrayal of her gradual derangement through a mixture of subjective (classical horror devices such as cracking walls and groping phantoms) and objective (a fly-blown rabbit carcass and rotting potatoes) motifs, creating a masterfully cinematic representation of a descent into madness.




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