Rosemary's Baby (1968)
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The true dread and horror of this movie comes from the lack of autonomy some women experienced while pregnant. So many of Rosemary's choices are taken out of her hands by her domineering husband, a parade of crones whose knowledge is assumed by merit of their age, and her doctor of course, all in the name of "what's best for her." Watching a woman say yes to what she knows is wrong in her heart because refusing or contacting the outside world is simply not an option is about as scary as it gets for me.
A superb horror. Love the quaint mood of the movie. Wish I could say the same about the ending though.
Rosemary's Baby is a gruesome and intense story adapted for the big screen by the Polish director Roman Polanski, from the novel with the same name by Ira Levin. Although it does not contain the elements that traditionally compose a horror movie (blood, sudden shock-moments, etc.) this film is a masterpiece of its genre because it does not depend on these same elements to create a truly frightening and unsettling atmosphere.
Guy (John Cassavetes) and Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) are a young couple facing a promising life together. Guy is an actor looking for his big break and Rosemary longs to be a mother. The two just moved into an apartment in the heart of Manhattan where they have as neighbors Roman (Sydney Blackmer) and Minnie Castavet (Ruth Gordon), a caring but nosy elderly couple. Guy develops a close relationship to his neighbors while his wife does not feel very comfortable around them.
Finally, Rosemary’s much desired pregnancy happens but brings unexpected complications: the young woman begins to lose weight and to feel excruciating pains in her stomach.
A series of unusual events, strange noises coming from the apartment next door and a strange obsession revealed by Minnie for her pregnancy, lead Rosemary to a state of complete distrust on those around her and fear for the baby that she’s carrying.
This whole storyline is framed perfectly by Polanski. The unsettling and gloomy atmosphere present throughout the film is immediately introduced by the strange lullaby sung by Mia Farrow during the opening credits.
The architecture, decoration and lightning of the settings create in the viewer a constant sense of claustrophobia and the confusing succession of screenshots in some moments - particularly during the odd nightmare of Rosemary - implement in the public an almost asphyxiating feeling of anxiety that lasts for several hours after the end of the movie.
In general, all the actors are very convincing in their roles and contribute a lot in creating a great familiarity between the viewer and the scene. However, there are two representations that stand out: Mia Farrow is brilliant in the role of the innocent young pregnant woman, fragile and submissive, personality to which his avant-garde pixie hair cut offers an interesting counterpoint, and Ruth Gordon offers a sublime interpretation of the comic yet sinister Minnie Castavet.
Roman Polanski leads the suspense masterfully, revealing the whole plot progressively, creating a very intimate connection between the viewer and the main character. This turns to be particularly brilliant when, instead of ending the film with some unexpected and shocking happening, he chooses a predictable but inevitable conclusion, as if we all knew bad things were meant to happen and there was no way out. This makes the story even scarier.
Personally, I don’t like to feel anxious and scared, so to say that I have suffered every second of this film is the best thing I can say about it. It is undoubtedly one of the greatest masterpieces in the history of horror cinema and a must for all lovers of the genre.
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In 21 official lists
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This movie ranks #8 in They Shoot Zombies, Don't They?
This movie ranks #9 in AFI's 100 years...100 thrills
This movie ranks #12 in Horror
This movie ranks #23 in Tim Dirks' Most Controversial Films of All-Time
This movie ranks #39 in Stanley Kubrick, Cinephile
This movie ranks #44 in MovieSense 101
This movie ranks #49 in 1960s
This movie ranks #59 in Best Of Rotten Tomatoes
This movie ranks #78 in Empire 500
This movie ranks #161 in They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?
This movie ranks #170 in 501 Must See Movies
This movie ranks #250 in Sight and Sound 2012 - Combined List
This movie ranks #348 in 500 Essential Cult Movies
This movie ranks #424 in The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made
This movie ranks #479 in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
This movie ranks #572 in Jonathan Rosenbaum's Essential Films
This movie ranks #667 in National Film Registry
This movie ranks #692 in Have You Seen? A Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films
This movie ranks #738 in The Criterion Collection
This movie ranks #767 in The Guardian's 1000 Films to See Before You Die
This movie ranks #793 in TimeOut's 1000 Films to Change Your Life