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Catherine Deneuve
Ian Hendry
John Fraser
Yvonne Furneaux
Patrick Wymark.
Roman Polanski.
Roman Polanski.
Running Time
105 minutes

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Polanski's property horror

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Carol Ledoux, a Belgian manicurist living in London, is left alone in a flat when her sister goes on holiday with her married lover and spends a week going mad.


Roman Polanski’s first English-language film. It was conceived as an entry in the new-horror sub-genre that had been created (and named) by Psycho, but takes a different approach to terror. We only discover that Norman Bates is a psychpath at the end of Alfred Hitchcock’s film, but Polanski locks us in with Carol from the first, forcing us to share her warped perceptions. He films early ‘60s London with a foreigner’s eye, as Carol flinches from aggressive workmen, pub bores or eccentrics and drifts off while her customers chatter away while she polishes their nails.
When Carol retreats to a cavernous Earls Court flat, Polanski terrifyingly depicts her hallucinations – clutching hands which reach through the walls – and parallels the decay of her mind with the rotting of a rabbit she intended to cook but has just left out on the sideboard.  She always sees men as a threat, and eventually takes a knife to the guilty – her bullying landlord – and innocent – her nice would-be boyfriend – alike. 
Hitchcock ends the film with a lecture on why Norman is mad, but Polanski just closes in on a family photograph to drop hints about the roots of the blonde angel’s insanity. Rather than making a mad person scary, the film terrifies by giving an audience a sense of what it’s like to lose sanity.  It’s a film full of perfect little details, like the commingled look of appalled disgust and guilty fascination on Ian Hendry’s face as he finds a butchered corpse in the bath – torn between looking away and looking closer.

If hell is in the details, Roman Polanski has captured it here in his disturbing portrait of falling into psychosis.

Reviewed by Kim Newman

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Repulsion
Empire Star Rating

Creepy and Intelligent

Roman Polanski's crafty psychological thriller deals with lonliness, anxiety, and sexual repression, presenting us with a chilling visual narrative filtered through the anti-heroine's distorted point of view. There is an inherently voyeuristic quality to the film - the camera is almost always following someone, and, at times, gets uncomfortably close to its subject, reinforcing our sense of unease. Repulsion is like a bad dream: you don't watch it, you feel it. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by movienut707 at 20:22, 27 February 2013 | Report This Post

Very disturbing

There's no getting around it. This is a hard film to watch. But in the best possible way. Say what you want about his personal life, but Polanski is a genius with a camera. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Mr Gittes at 16:38, 06 February 2013 | Report This Post

Catherine Deneuve

She is Farenheit 451 in this, stunning. Even Kim can't get this review wrong. Great movie, I wanna see it again. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Normal Control at 01:35, 02 January 2013 | Report This Post

tp://]Repulsionoman Polanski`s first film in the English language tells the story of the Belgian Carole (Catherine Deneuve) who shares an appartment with her sister in London. When her sister goes on holiday with her boyfriend she stays home alone and slowly but surely starts suffering from psychosis and delusions, resulting in a bunch of violent acts. During the film Polanski creates an atmospere that makes his audience go through the same state of mind as Deneuv... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheGodfather at 21:14, 06 March 2011 | Report This Post


Polanski crafts one of the most disturbing and hellish visceral experiences perhaps ever committed to film. One woman's descent into madness. The constant atmosphere of impending doom and the palpable melancholy feel gives "Repulsion" one of it's greatest strengths. Also, the acting is simply stunning from all cast members. Classic Polanski. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by krisjcummins at 00:20, 27 May 2010 | Report This Post

RE: Repulsion

Marvellous film and utterly absorbing cinema, with fascinating performances and a strange intimacy with it's ominous atmosphere. The only criticism I have of Repulsion is that it tends to overshadow 'The Tenant', which depending on interpretations could have been another investigation into the crippling effects of paranoia and subsequent insanity, personally I think it's impenetrable mystery and proximity to Polanski make it a more intriguing film, but in my opinion it is also superior to... More

Posted by Lydia_H at 00:09, 14 March 2007 | Report This Post

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