Friday, December 07, 2012

Rosemary's Baby

Based on the novel by Ira Levin, Rosemary’s Baby is the story about a pregnant woman who moves into a new apartment with her husband only to believe that her eccentric neighbors are part of the occult who want her baby for a sacrifice. Written for the screen and directed by Roman Polanski, the film marks Polanski’s second part of a trilogy set in apartment as it explore a woman dealing with her new surroundings as well as her fears in the occult. Starring Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, Maurice Evans, Sidney Blackmer, Charles Grodin, and Ralph Bellamy. Rosemary’s Baby is a harrowing yet mesmerizing film from Roman Polanski.

Rosemary Woodward (Mia Farrow) and her actor-husband Guy (John Cassavetes) search for a place to live in New York City as they go to a prestigious apartment building as they finally selected it at their new home. At their new apartment, Guy leaves to find work as an actor while Rosemary stays home taking charge of the renovation as she wonders about some of the mysterious things that is happening including the suicide of a young woman she had just met named Terry Gionoffrio (Victoria Veltri). Rosemary and Guy later meet their elderly neighbors in Minnie and Roman Castevet (Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer) as Guy enjoys their company though Rosemary is a bit wary despite their friendly nature. After some time together with the Castevets in which Minnie gives Rosemary a necklace that she claims is good luck, Rosemary isn’t sure as she is keen on having a child with Guy.

After Guy gets a part for a play after an actor got blinded, he and Rosemary celebrate where Minnie makes them chocolate mousse cups where Rosemary suddenly felt ill and later has a strange dream. Days later, Rosemary becomes pregnant as she is overjoyed by the news as Guy tells the Castevets the news as they suggest that Rosemary go to Dr. Abraham Sapirstein (Ralph Bellamy) to handle the pregnancy. Rosemary takes some drinks for the first few months as the instructions she’s given has made her ill as her friend Hutch (Maurice Evans) becomes concerned as he wants to have a meeting with Rosemary. On the day of their supposed meeting, Hutch never shows up as Rosemary learns he became ill as her pain starts to get to her until it suddenly goes away.

With the baby nearing its due date, Rosemary thinks nothing goes wrong until she heard that Hutch had died. At Hutch’s funeral, his wife (Hanna Landy) gives Rosemary a book about witchcraft where Rosemary realizes that something isn’t right. Turning to her original doctor in Dr. Hill (Charles Grodin) for help, Rosemary believes that it all has to do with some form of cult that is happening and Guy has become part of it. Yet, she gets into more trouble as many believe she’s become delusional as she wonders what to do to save her baby.

What happens to a young woman who finds herself in a strange surrounding with her husband as she believes that the occult are living nearby her as she becomes pregnant and worry about her child? That’s the idea of what the film is about as it reveals into a lot of heavy themes about faith and motherhood. Particularly in a period when people began to believe that faith and religion is dwindling due to social and cultural changes that was happening as the film is set in 1965 and 1966. At the center of this story is this woman who is eager to have a baby with her husband in the hopes to create a great life for herself and her husband. Yet, things become complicated due to the ambitions of her husband and the eccentric elderly neighbors that she meet who would change the course of her life.

Roman Polanski’s screenplay definitely plays to a conventional structure in terms of what is expected in a thriller and suspense film. Yet, Polanski chooses to focus more on Rosemary’s plight as she is dealing with her new surroundings as the incident of a woman’s suicide is the first serious encounter of something off about her new surroundings. The first act is about Rosemary in her new surroundings and meeting these strange people including Dr. Sapirstein. The second act is about Rosemary’s complications with her pregnancy and her suspicions being raised about what is happening to her.

The third act is about not just the death of a friend but Rosemary becoming more curious about the deaths of people around her as well as the world of witchcraft as it turns into a very serious horror film. Not just a psychological horror film but also a horror film that deals with the ideas of the occult and witchcraft where it could be in Rosemary’s mind but also a reflection of a world losing touch with God. This would lead to Rosemary going into a journey where she would make some very chilling discoveries about the kind of people that her husband has associated with.

Polanski’s direction is very stylish in the way he presents the film not just as a suspense-drama but also a film that plays up into the world of reality and surrealism. From the intimate setting he makes in many of the film’s scenes at the apartment where Polanski creates a world where Rosemary seems to make something of her own but her outside surroundings and the people such as the Castavets and Dr. Sapirstein who come into her world. Suddenly, her surroundings become corrupted by while she also becomes intrigued by the history of her apartment building as an early scene in the film where she and Guy are given a tour where she and Guy notice a huge cabinet is blocking something.

The direction is much more loose with hand-held cameras for scenes outside of the building as it is set largely in New York City where it plays to the sense of terror that is happening where Rosemary can seemingly be lost. There’s also an array of surreal montages and dream sequences that occur where Polanski creates a world that is out of the ordinary. Polanski also focuses his camera on certain objects that help tell the story as well as books that would help guide Rosemary into uncovering the world of the occult. Even as it leads to a very shocking ending that really becomes a revelation of not just what Rosemary went through but also a turning point in which the world definitely loses its grip on faith. Overall, Polanski creates a very haunting yet exotic film that explores a woman’s struggle to maintain her faith while dealing with the dark forces around her.

Cinematographer William A. Fraker does excellent work with the colorful cinematography to create dazzling colors for some of the film‘s interior setting to set a mood for the scenes while creating more straightforward shots for the exterior scenes. Editors Sam O’Steen and Bob Wyman do brilliant work with the editing to play up the suspense as well as creating some stylish montages for the film‘s dream sequences. Production designer Richard Sylbert, along with set decorator Robert Nelson and art director Joel Schiller, does amazing work with the set pieces such as the apartment that Rosemary and Guy live in to parts of the apartment itself which is played by the famous Dakota building.

Costume designer Anthea Sylbert does wonderful work with the costumes from the 60s style dresses that Rosemary wears to the more eccentric clothing of Minnie. Hair stylist Sherry Wilson and makeup artist Sherry Wilson does nice work with the look of Minnie to display her eccentric personality while Farrow’s pixie haircut was designed by Sydney Guilaroff and Vidal Sassoon. Sound recorder Harold Lewis does terrific work with the sound to help set a mood in some of the more chilling scenes as well as the intimate moments in the film. The film’s music by Krzystof Komeda is superb for its mixture of low-key orchestral pieces and piano tracks to more eerie pieces that adds to the film’s horror. Also included in the film is Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Fur Elise that adds to the dramatic tone of the film.

The film’s ensemble cast is phenomenal as it features some noteworthy small performances from producer William Castle as a man standing outside a phone booth, Tony Curtis as the voice of an actor Guy was competing with, Elisha Cook Jr. as the apartment manager who shows Guy and Rosemary the place, Hanna Landy as Hutch’s wife, Emmaline Henry as Rosemary’s friend Elise, Victoria Veltri as a tenant Rosemary meets in Terry Gionoffrio, and Patsy Kelly as a quirky friend of Minnie in Laura-Louise. Charles Grodin is very good as Dr. Hill who is bewildered by Rosemary’s claims while Maurice Evans is superb as Rosemary’s longtime friend Hutch who is curious about what Rosemary is dealing with where he would later give her clues to these problems.

Ralph Bellamy is wonderful as the very mysterious Dr. Abraham Sapirstein who tries to instill his ideas into Rosemary that leads to many questions. Sidney Blackmer is great as the enigmatic Roman Castevet who befriends Guy while ensuring Rosemary that things will be fine. Ruth Gordon is brilliant as the very lively Minnie Castevet who exudes all sorts of charm and wit to a woman that is very mysterious but also full of life. John Cassavetes is amazing as Guy Woodhouse who has a sense of enthusiasm and drive as well as someone who is hoping that Rosemary stick to the plan as he becomes more disturbing due to this time with the Castevets. Finally, there’s Mia Farrow in a terrifying yet powerful performance as Rosemary Woodhouse as this young, naïve woman who has dreams of having a perfect life only for dark surroundings to haunt her. Farrow also displays an intensity to a woman on the verge of trying to hold on to her faith in a world where faith is on the way out as it’s definitely one of Farrow’s great performances.

Rosemary’s Baby is a ominous yet thrilling film from Roman Polanski that features an outstanding performance from Mia Farrow. The film isn’t just one of Polanski’s great films but also a horror film that still manages to be unsettling and creepy. It’s also a very intriguing film that explores the world of faith and how it seems to lose touch in the world leading to darkness to emerge. In the end, Rosemary’s Baby is an incredible film from Roman Polanski.

Roman Polanski Films: Knife in the Water - Repulsion - Cul-de-Sac - The Fearless Vampire Killers - Macbeth (1971 film) - (What?) - Chinatown - The Tenant - Tess - (Pirates (1986 film)) - Frantic - Bitter Moon - Death and the Maiden - The Ninth Gate - The Pianist - Oliver Twist (2005 film) - The Ghost Writer - Carnage - (Venus in Fur) - (Based on a True Story) - (An Officer and a Spy) - (The Palace)

© thevoid99 2012

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good review Steve. This one totally took me by surprise because I was expecting to just have and deal with a bunch of demons popping out of nowhere for 2 hours straight, but that’s the exact difference of what I got. It’s all about building up it’s tension and mysterious atmosphere, that has you guessing until the last-shot. And what a last shot it is!