(Poster via http://hertzen.deviantart.com/)
While the film may not exactly be Christmas themed, the entire first half of the film takes place between October and December, making that enough of a connection to Shitmas for me! This being the 4th Shitmas I’m writing for, I feel the need to cover something that hasn’t been (not to my knowledge) covered yet, and Rosemary’s Baby ranks high on my list of films I’ll never get sick of. While most have seen this film, there are some who still haven’t (yes, unbelievable as it is, I know a few people who’ve never seen it) so I will do my best not to give away the ending.
Beginning with a haunting piano, Roman Polanski is almost warning you that something is amiss. We track across the skyline of New York City, one of Polanski’s favorite cities. Polanski felt New York had that unnerving feeling of isolation and loneliness, in a city of 8 million; a place where a woman surrounded by people, could easily feel deserted and abandoned.
Rosemary Woodhouse is played brilliantly by Mia Farrow. Opening the film, we follow her while searching for an apartment with her beau, Guy (John Cassavetes). Even in these moments, subtle hints of the evil that lurks are dropped. Very inconspicuously, such things like the previous tenants herb garden, some letters that are left out, and a scene that portrays Guy’s impatience and deft sarcasm in a matter of seconds, a bureau has inexplicably been moved in front of a closet door. They take the apartment, and are then warned by their friend Hutch (Maurice Evans) about the dark and troubled history of the building they are moving into.
From this point forward, we follow the Woodhouses as they make a new home for themselves. Rosemary befriends a young woman who also lives there, the girl is then found dead of an apparent suicide. Coincidentally, the girl was living with an elderly couple, Minnie and Roman Castevet, who live in the apartment next to theirs. Guy eventually becomes close to the Castevets, as his career begins to take off. They decide it’s time to have a baby, and Rosemary becomes pregnant. The Castevets recommend an old doctor friend of theirs, Dr. Saperstein, and Rosemary begins a regimen of herbal drinks made by Minnie from her garden.
Everything is seemingly normal and going well for them, except for Rosemary’s’ growing suspicions. On “Baby Night,” as they dubbed it, Rosemary had a dream she was raped by Guy who takes the form of a demonic creature, as the residents of the building stand naked, watching and chanting. This is the fuel for many of the concerns she has regarding Minnie and Roman, along with months of consistent pain in her belly. Rosemary eventually comes to the conclusion that the Castevets are part of a coven of witches, who killed her friend Hutch, along with others throughout the film.
Mia Farrow pulls you into Rosemarys mind, and drags you alongside in her nightmare scenarios. In one of the final scenes after the baby is born, Rosemary is given some distressing news. Her moment of screaming and protesting still gives me chills every time I watch it. Pregnant women live through an emotional rollercoaster during pregnancy, and can feel as though the world is against them. This paranoia is something that Polanski preyed upon in the viewer at moments like this.
The film thrives on subtlety and deception, with a clever trick that Polanski employed in the acting and dialogue. Much of the time the feeling is that the film is littered with bad actors and silly dialogue, but that is done purposely to distract the viewer from the truth of what is really happening. All of the characters are seemingly creating a web of lies surrounding Rosemary.
The brilliance behind it is for the viewer to be suspicious alongside her, but to still have the feeling that it’s possible Rosemary may be crazy and imagining it all. Upon re-watching the film, you realize that nothing in the story is accidental or coincidence. You hear many one-sided conversations, as we follow the story entirely through Rosemary’s’ experiences.
Anyone who knows me, knows that this is easily one of my favorite films. Polanski’s attention to detail is remarkable, creating this world of conspiracy and lies that Rosemary believes she caught in the middle of. Even a young Charles Grodin (his second film appearance) is unknowingly caught up in it, and turns on Rosemary.
Rosemary’s Baby could easily be one of the greatest films, definitely one of the greatest horror films, ever made. The “slow burn” style is something that is very rarely executed properly, and filmmakers to this day still try to duplicate the dread audiences felt watching this for the first time.
With a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes (the single negative review written by someone who missed many details, and didn’t seem to appreciate the style of storytelling) and the honor of being the only horror film to receive an Oscar for one of its supporting leads (going to Ruth Gordon), it is one that should be in every cinephiles library.
There was a less-than-stellar made-for-TV sequel in 1976, Look What Happened to Rosemarys Baby, which Ruth Gordon returned for, starring Patty Duke as Rosemary, and Stephen McHattie playing Rosemary’s son Adrien, now an adult. Also, not living up to the original film, it was recently remade as a 2-part TV mini-series and I have to say. It was extremely ordinary and dull, coming off more as an extra- long episode of 666 Park Avenue, rather than a standalone film. It wasn’t terrible, but it was not particularly interesting, and certainly lacked all feeling and emotion for the characters. Just proof that Polanski made something very special, and is without a doubt a one-of-a-kind film.
I think I could go on about Rosemarys Baby forever, but without wanting to get into the finale of the film, I think I will cut it off now. Everyone enjoy your Shitmas, and I’ll see you again next year!