All-Time Favorites #5
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
“To 1966! The year one!”
Director: Roman Polanski
Starring: Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, Sidney Blackmer, Ralph Bellamy
I am a big fan of psychological horror films. Sadly, I can’t say that there are many of them being made these days. Instead there is gore, violence and even more gore in unnecessary sequels without a real plot. I have given up on watching any of these films as I find them quite disgusting and have no idea how anyone could get something out of them.
So let’s get back to the good old days of psychological horror, when most of it happened off-screen in your own mind. Rosemary’s Baby has been one of my favorites for many years. Like many of Polanski’s movies (for example Repulsion, 1965), it plays with paranoia and perception, showing someone’s state of mind slowly shifting from sanity to God knows what.
In the movie, we get to follow a young married couple (John Cassavetes and Mia Farrow), that moves into a new apartment. Soon they meet their neighbors, an old couple that seems sweet but starts to get a little annoying after a while. They learn some bad things have happened in that apartment building. When Mia Farrow gets pregnant, she starts to suspect that something is seriously wrong with her baby.
I have heard people say that what happens now can all be explained. I happen to disagree and have always trusted Rosemary’s point of view. However, it is nothing short of brilliant that Polanski constructed the movie so that it can easily be read both ways, which is exactly why no one wants to believe Rosemary in the movie. The occult elements are woven in slowly in a creepily delightful way, gradually revealing the makings in the background.
Polanski takes his time telling the story, which I also enjoyed in his recent The Ghostwriter (2010). We get to take a very close look at a girl that seems to be trapped in a maze
- not knowing what the intentions of everyone around her are. Mia Farrow does a fantastic job at portraying the transformation within Rosemary. We feel (and fear) with her. The supporting cast is equally outstanding. Ruth Gordon as neighbor Minnie Castevet won an Academy Award and Golden Globe for her performance. Frankly, she is the reason why I don’t want to get to know my neighbors (and would never try their chocolate mousse)!
The chilling ending accompanied by an unforgettable song (or is it a lullaby?), that we already heard in the beginning, stayed with me long after. Polanski’s direction turns all this into a timeless masterpiece. The movie is incredibly tense, full of disturbing images and revelations. What I admire the most is that Rosemary’s Baby works as a character piece as much as it does as a horror film. And you cannot say that about many movies, can you?