Society seems paradoxical in its reverence for innocence and purity, while at the same
time indulging in the very hedonistic lifestyle it so condemns. Sober productivity to work and
sexual purity are exalted, but everywhere scantily clad women peddle the best product that will
achieve drunkenness in the hopes of leading to casual sex. ‘Sex, drugs, and Rock ’N Roll’ has
become the mantra of an entire generation, yet people still hold in esteem the values of living a
virtuous and wholesome life. Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (1965) explores this contradiction
between thought and action through the protagonist’s psychological state and mental breakdown.
Polanski argues that the human ideal of wholesomeness and purity cannot survive in a male-
dominated civilization ruled by sex.
Repulsion acts as a textbook example of art cinema, particularly in the implementation of
realism principles. The protagonist, Carol Ledoux (Catherine Deneuve), walks about the streets
of London, England in a few scenes in the film. The shots are on location, with real sections of
London and its multitude of motor vehicles and tightly packed streets abundant throughout. The
mise-en-scene of Carol’s apartment is also true to the principles of realism. The apartment is
cluttered; random knickknacks strewn about the dwelling and a sofa tactlessly placed in the
middle of the living room. The apartment also has a slightly grungy and worn-down look to it,
true of older apartment buildings in the aging city. Sex is also approached with bluntness
consistent with art cinema. These type of films “depend upon an eroticism that violates the
production code” and morality of mainstream Hollywood (Bordwell 96). In the case of
Repulsion, Carol’s mental breakdown is hinged upon the constant sexual advances of males in
her life as well as the more surrealistic nightmares of rape the film portrays. In one scene, the
shot simply focuses on a close-up of...