Monday, 13 December 2010

Rosemary's Baby

Fig 1

Rosemary's Baby is a 1968 horror mystery directed by Roman Polanski and starring Mia Farrow as Rosemary Woodhouse and John Cassavetes as Guy Woodhouse. The film follows the traumatic pregnancy of Rosemary in an apartment building seemingly riddled with witches in New York City. Prior to Rosemary's pregnancy she and her husband recently moved into the Bramford apartment block unaware of the previous tenants, who were described by Hutch (Maurice Evans, a friend and old landlord of Rosemary and John's) as cannibals and witches. Dismissing Hutch's stories of the old house, Rosemary and John decide to move in. John an actor struggling to make the big-time makes his money from commercials and small productions, and Rosemary is the house wife who yearns for a child so they can become a family. The film from the start is very eerie with the first shots being of the notorious Bramford apartment block and the couple being shown around by another tenant (Mr Nicklas, Elisha Cook, Jr). They view the well furnished apartment of Mrs Gardinia, an elderly lady who died after being in a coma for a short period of time. In her study we see a collection of herbs she grew herself, a large collection of old books and an unfinished note about being no longer associated with something or other. There was also a large secretary cabinet blocking a closet door, which had been moved from its original place against the adjoining wall. These scenes on their own appear normal - many people, particularly the elderly, take up gardening as a hobby - but usually it is flowers and potted plants rather than herbs that are grown in one’s study. The unfinished note saying, "I can no longer be associated" seemed to indicate her dissatisfaction with a club or a group she had joined, but why did the camera pan so long on it; of what importance was it? And the secretary that was moved in front of the closet housing her vacuum and towels that was pointed out by Mr Nicklas as very strange because she was 89 years-old and could not possibly have moved it. These familiar objects are placed conveniently in each shot, using the uncanny as a form of narrative to build a caricature of the previous tenant without her being seen so that the audience forms its own conclusion thereby judging the film prematurely.  Without a doubt the dye is cast on this apartment which previously housed a witch or a woman who dealt in the supernatural.
Rosemary makes a new friend in the basement of the building while doing her laundry, Terry Gionoffrio (Victoria Vetri), a drug addict taken in by the Castevets, Rosemary's neighbours. Rosemary and Terry begin to talk and Rosemary explains that her apartment and the Castevets’ used to be one and Terry relaying how she came to be living with the Castevets. Terry shows Rosemary her good luck charm, a chain and pendant the Castevets had given her.  It contained an unpleasant smelling herb, but was beautifully crafted. Terry also explains the Castevets and Mrs Gardinia were good friends, with Mrs Gardinia growing a lot of the herbs for the Castevets. Although the Castevet's and Rosemary's apartments are separated by partition boards, Rosemary and Guy sometimes can hear the Castevets arguing, especially Minnie Castevet (Ruth Gordon) who is a very loud and obnoxious New Yorker. Polanski uses the Castevet's arguing as a medium to explain incidents that are about to happen, and the reason for their occurrence in such a way that is not apparent to the audience who believe such scenes to be nothing more than nonsensical background chatter. An example is a scene in Rosemary's bedroom before Terry kills herself by jumping out of the Castevets’ apartment window. Minnie and her husband Roman (Sidney Blackmer) are heard arguing about Roman divulging evidence to a girl to which Minnie was opposed. The arguing stops and as the Woodhouse's listen they start to mock the Castevet's. The Woodhouse's stop their mocking and suddenly begin hearing chanting instead of arguing coming from their neighbour’s home. The following day Terry kills herself, but on the same night while going to sleep, Rosemary hears the Castevets' once again arguing. With Rosemary obviously very tired the arguing becomes intertwined with a dream about her childhood with the church. Rosemary hears Minnie, who is portrayed as a nun in the church, saying "sometimes I wonder how comes you’re the leader of anything". She then goes on to say, "If you listened to me we wouldn't have to do this"; as she points to men rebuilding a window, she carries on, "we were all set to go now instead we have to start all over from scratch. I told you not to tell her in advance; I told you she wouldn't be open minded", while Minnie rages on Roman hints at her to be quiet. Polanski has continued to force- feed the plot to the audience - with these two conversations it is obvious that the Castevets' had something to do with the suicide, or at least know who has. Polanski authentically reproduces the dream sequence with Rosemary, as expected when dreaming, which is very uncanny in its own right, in which Polanski allows Rosemary to associate the voices and faces of the Castevets' with familiar scenes from her past, concocting a medley of information which unfortunately seems to get lost when she awakes. Roger Ebert explains how Polanski works, "Polanski  gives the audience a great deal of information early in the story, and by the time the movie's halfway over we're pretty sure what's going on in that apartment next door" (Ebert, 1968). Nevertheless the Woodhouses' remain oblivious to what is going on around them thus far. The film has lived up to its genre as a mystery, with the audience constantly looking and listening for the next clue in order to be kept abreast of events surrounding both these families.
Fig 2

A clue of what is to come is given when Minnie invites Rosemary and Guy over for dinner and the way in which the Castevets behave around the Woodhouses, particularly Minnie who is still overexcited even amongst other people. Roman accidentally spills some drink on the carpet while serving the Woodhouses and Minnie adopts an old hag's voice, screeching at Roman while doing her best to mop up the mess. Her table manners could also do with some polishing as she shovels as much food into her mouth as possible, talking and chewing at the same time. The dinner scene is the turning point of this film for Rosemary as her husband Guy is allowed time alone with Roman. Nothing is heard between these two characters, but Guy emerges from their conversation somewhat enlightened and more appreciative of the Castevets. On returning home he wants to go back the next day, which is unusual as just hours before the party he showed his disdain against attending. The familiar Guy we once knew has changed his attitude towards the Castevets and Rosemary, and his career also has taken a turn for the better, getting to work on shows he would not have previously. Polanski directs us towards the Castevets', using Guy's uncanny behaviour to solidify the Castevets’ guilt in his change of attitude. The Castevets' present Rosemary with a gift, one identical to Terry's charm with a similar smell; however Rosemary does not appear to recognise it. After showing Guy and expressing her dislike for the smell, Guy emphasises the Castevets’ will by urging her to accept and wear it as a gift. Guy even approaches Rosemary to have a baby while marking out the days she will be more susceptible to becoming pregnant. Guy observes this day and prepares a dinner for Rosemary; however who knocks on the door other than Minnie bearing gifts in the form of two chocolate mousses. The couple begin to eat the dessert with only Rosemary noticing a chalky under-taste, and refusing to eat anymore. Guy takes offence to her actions and convinces her to eat more, but she is unable to finish it. Rosemary starts to feel slightly dizzy and falls into a trance-like state and Guy puts her to bed and undresses her, but by this time she has begun dreaming while still hearing her husband's voice in the background. Polanski recreates Rosemary's dream sequence again, but with images of familiar faces that include Hutch, and the voices of people who are actually there with her including Minnie and Guy, who can be heard wondering aloud whether she realises what is going on. And what is going on is that Guy, the Castevets and others have drugged Rosemary so they can perform a sexual ritual to impregnate her with the seed of Satan. Rosemary awakes the following morning with the feeling of being violated and scratch marks all over her back.  However, Guy takes full responsibility for this by saying that he “could not miss the window of opportunity for making the baby".
Fig 3

Time Out highlights the decline into insanity of Rosemary after the rape, "Although it manages to be frightening, there is little gore or explicit violence; instead, what disturbs is the blurring of reality and nightmare, and the way Farrow is slowly transformed from a healthy, happily-married wife to a haunted, desperately confused shadow of her former self" (Time Out, 2010). With Rosemary now pregnant, Polanski starts to play on this fact and twists the evidence he has previously suggested by using a pre-natal condition to justify the strange happenings that begin to surround Rosemary. Rosemary is urged to change doctors to a friend of the Castevets, Dr Abraham Saperstein (Ralph Bellamy), who is also a society doctor. She experiences a pain in her stomach which she believes is cramp, she starts to lose weight and begins to eat raw meat. Rosemary is visited by her friend Hutch who after seeing her begins to suspect something is wrong and starts his own investigation into her weight loss and the mysterious pendant given to her by the Castevets. Hutch discovers the Castevets' secret of being the head of a coven of witches, and for the first time in the film Rosemary becomes aware through Hutch of what has been and is going on, and realises that Guy is involved in the conspiracy. Although these circumstances are revealed to the audience there is still doubt as to the whole truth, as Polanski uses Guy, Saperstein and the Castevets to spin out the illusion that the stress of the pregnancy is affecting Rosemary and that there are no such things as witches. Polanski plants and uses these doubts not just because he can, but because they introduce a new sense of tension to the film and allows confusion to run through the audiences’ minds as well as Rosemary's, creating drama around previous suspicions of newly created pre-natal uncertainties, almost like enacting an argument within an argument.
Fig 4
Rosemary's due date draws closer and closer while this drama unfolds, naturally causing undue stress to mother and child up to the arrival of her due date. Rosemary goes into labour at home in the care of Guy and Dr Saperstein, but passes out before the baby is born. When Rosemary wakes she is told that her child died. These doubts that Polanski has created are played out right to the end of the film, where through sheer determination Rosemary escapes the confinements of her bed and heads towards the Castevets' apartment where Guy and the Castevets' coven are tending to a black cot also draped in black material. Rosemary brandishing a knife almost feels a sense of relief, as does the audience, although the latter suspected the baby would be Satan nothing was certain until this scene was revealed. Roman makes a toast to the child of Satan and all apart from Rosemary start to cheer. Roman explains to Rosemary that they never intended to hurt her or the baby, and that she as the mother should care the child and raise it as normal. Rosemary shocked at what she had just heard, starts to reconsider her initial reactions, moving closer to the cot she starts to accept the fact, that she is its mother.            


Fig 1 (2010) Rosemary's Baby review,

Fig 2 (2010) Rosemary's Baby review,

Fig 3 (2009) Rosemary's Baby review,

Fig 4 (2009) Rosemary's Baby review,


Ebert, Roger (1968) Rosemary's Baby Review, Chicago Sun-Times, Time 01:37, 10.12.2010.

Time Out (2010) Rosemary's Baby Review, Time Out, Time 01:37, 10.12.2010.

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