Film Seminar "The Haunts of Our Homes"
Center for Urban History, Lviv
The topic of this week’s meeting was "The Private Besieged by the Public." The meeting included the screening and discussion of Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (Great Britain, 1965).
It is difficult to say what motivated Roman Polanski to film Repulsion, his masterful psychological thriller, and part one of the so-called "apartment trilogy," which also includes Rosemary’s Baby and The Tenant. However, regardless of whatever personal meaning the director may have put into the film, his work is a striking illustration of the important trends in the development of modern cities. The boundary between the apartment and the street, which proved fatal for the film’s protagonist, is also the boundary between the private and the public. The domestic sphere began to be separated from other areas of life – such as work, or politics – in the early nineteenth century, due to the development of industry and modernizing processes. Many of these new developments in the organization of the urban space originated from England, and it is significant that the film’s story takes place in London. The protagonist lives in South Kensington, an affluent neighbourhood embodying privacy and domestic comfort in the best traditions of the London bourgeoisie. To weave his terrifying and suspenseful tale of madness that comes gradually but irreversibly, Polanski puts our usual ideas of privacy on their head. The haven of home in his film becomes not the safest place in the world, but rather a source of the worst nightmares.
Cover Image: Still from Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (Great Britain, 1965).