Saturday, 26 November 2016

Repulsion - Film Review


Fig 1. Repulsion (poster art)

The film is described as 'an absolute masterpiece of psychological horror' by film critic, John Greco.

Carole shares her apartment with her sister until her sister leaves for an extended holiday.  Once she is alone, Carole's vivid imagination takes over her life, eventually leading to paranoia and a psychosis that turns her into a twisted and tormented character.

A dark and chilling atmosphere pervades this film.  From the outset and as a result of clever camera positioning, it is as if the apartment itself is a character.  The camera is placed at ground level and records movements in a still, wide-angled, deep focus shot as Carol moves between rooms.  As the camera moves through the apartment the rooms hide their contents until the camera finds them, causing an air of suspence and anticipation.

There is an uneasy sexual tension that exists throughout the film.  At intervals during the film, the camera focuses on a family photograph from different distances.  In one scene, the photograph is completely blacked out.  However the shadows fall in such a way that a light appears to stretch from a man's mouth  to Carole's crotch. This could suggest a sexual relationship between the man and Carole to the viewer. 

The use of  lighting in this way, is foreshadowing the storyline to the viewer. 

The camera creates a cold, dark and miserable atmosphere by using close ups and wide angle shots.  The film is set within a small, rundown apartment. Polanski is known for his ability to create a claustrophobic mood.  This mood is reinforced  by an apparent lack of sound.   Except there are repetitive sounds that are heard and that punctuate the script.  There is a ticking clock during an eerie imaginary rape scene.  A school bell rings. dripping water can be heard, Nuns are laughing, flies are buzzing, footsteps can be heard and a piano is playing. Such sounds are enough to drive anyone mad because they are intrusive, annoying and aggravating, in the same way that Carole's intrusive thoughts cause her paranoia. It is interesting that these external sounds permeate to the inside of the apartment.  Could this be indicative of the way in which external forces were penetrating Carole's mind and body?

The camera close ups of Carole make the viewer feel as if they know Carole intimately. There are perspective shots with Carole in the foreground but her back to the camera.  Consequently it feels as though the other actors are looking past Carole and interacting directly with the viewer. A further example of the way n which the camera work draws you in and makes you believe you are inside Carole's head!

Cracking walls, overgrown potatoes and the disgusting, rotting rabbit corpse close ups seem to support the idea that Carole is cracking up and her mind, as she was knew it, was rotting away.

The film's ability to create space by using deep shadows and wide angled scenes, really defines the film. Although confined areas, the shadows expand the space in macabre ways.  Yet, Polanski himself complained hat 'Repulsion is the shoddiest.......technically well below the standard I try to achieve'.  However, it won critical acclaim  from critics because the contemporary camera work spoke to audiences in a new way.

Illustration List
Figure 1. Repulsion (poster art) (Accessed on 26 November 2016)

Skip Cycle

As a group we decided to replicate a skip cycle in Adobe Animate. Ruth, Sam and I filmed each other doing a skip cycle and then slowed the video down so that we could study the movements. I hope to re-create my own skip cycle in Adobe Animate!

Black Narcissus - Film Review

Black Narcissus

Figure 1. Black Narcisuss (poster art)

Black Narcissus, created in 1947 and based on the novel by Rumer Godden, is an intimate and sensual film that gradually builds upon a sexual theme. I will be discovering how Art director Alfred Junge and Cinematographer Michael Powell used ‘Mise-en-scene’ to create this ongoing theme.
The story closely follows a group of Nuns, who decide to set up a school and hospital for the local people living in the Himalaya’s. However the Nuns struggle with the environment that they’re living in, influencing the way they should behave as nuns.
The film was made in Pinewood Studio’s, with many scenes actually being shot in the Leanardslee Gardens in West Sussex, home to an Indian army retiree.
As CGI (Computer Generated Image) wasn’t an option back then, they used techniques such as Matte Paintings. A Matte Painting would have been painted onto a glass panel, leading the viewer to believe that they’re really looking at the Himalayan Scenery. There is one scene when Sister Clodagh is ringing the giant bell at the edge of the cliff. The camera gives us an ariel perspective of what’s below the cliff. “Here we see it show the bell at the edge of the cliff, and the drop into the forest below. It appears to be hundreds of feet high but in fact, sister clodagh…is only ten feet off the ground.”

Fig.2.Black Narcissus (film still)

Technicolour was a relatively new technique at the time this film was produced. This was good as Colour Symbolism features throughout the film and is crucial to the film’s aesthetics. For example, as jealousy and sexual tension rises from Sister Ruth, the lighting also conveys this change in emotion through the use of warmer tones
“The palette starts to change as Sister Ruth starts to go off the rails. A copper light is thrown onto the walls through grills and windows and the scene of sister Ruth applying red lipstick, holding a vivid red compact, is spellbinding.” (Production Designer Michael Howells,19 March 2011)

Fig 3. Black Narcissus (film still)

It could be said that when Sister Ruth applies her red lipstick, she’s rebelling against the “nuns way of life” and trying to start a new one.  Interestingly lipstick actually has sexual connotations behind it. Diane Ackerman, author of “A history of the senses” says that “The lips remind us of the labia, because they flush red and swell when they’re aroused, which is the conscious or subconscious reason women have always made them look even redder with lipstick.” (Yesterface)
Colour symbolism is also evident throughout the costume design. The nuns wear only white robes, which signify “purity” and “innocence”. This contrasts with the erotic paintings on the wall of naked women.

Fig 4. Black Narcissus (film still)

The films name “Black Narcissus” is suggestive of a flower or organic plant. The flower Narcissus actually has pale yellow or white petals with a darker yellow centre. The introduction of the word black is almost a juxtaposition as the words don’t naturally sit together. It could be interpreted as the foreshadowing of rebirth or a nuns new lifestyle.

Many of the scenes were fairly melodramatic, especially when the camera focused on exaggerated, facial expressions. There is a scene when British Agent Mr. Dean walks in without a shirt on and Sister Ruth looks longingly at him.  It would have been particularly unusual at the time for the focus to have been on the male naked form. This is the opposite of the “male gaze.”

Fig. 5 Black Narcissus (film still)

This film and the way in which the staging was manipulated to convey high spaces, enclosed spaces, intimacy and emotion has been fascinating. The impact of colour to convey the feelings of the characters has taught me how powerful this tool is.

Illustration List:
Figure 1. Black Narcissus (poster art) (Accessed on 26 November 2016)

Figure 2. Black Narcissus (film still)
(Accessed on 26 November 2016)

Figure 3. Black Narcissus (film still)
(Accessed on 26 November 2016)

Figure 4. Black Narcissus (film still) on 26 November 2016)

Figure 5. Black Narcissus (film still)
(Accessed on 26 November 2016)


Yesterface, 'Why do women wear read lipstick?' ( June 5, 2011) In: Yesterface [online] At: URL: (Accessed on 26 November 2016)

Guru, Production Designer Michael Howells (Shackleton, Nanny McPhee), 19 March 2011 In: Guru At: URL: 2011. (Accessed on 26 November 2016)

Film Directing Tips, '12 Colors and Their Meanings' by Peter D. Marshall In: Film Directing Tips At: URL: (Accessed on 26 November 2016)