Thursday, 9 December 2010

Film Review: Rosemary's Baby

The second film we watched from the ‘Unhomely’ film programme was Rosemary's Baby, which was directed by Roman Polanski and was released in 1968.

Fig. 1 Rosemary's Baby Poster
A very interesting film to watch, Rosemary's Baby is a film built up around paranoia in which Rosemary, the focal character, must fight to save her unborn child from an unknown evil. The film is very psychologically based and builds up horror around this as Film4 states:

"...Roman Polanski's classic psycho-horror,.." (Film4, -)

However, as the film progresses it soon becomes involved in a form of physical horror, child birth and so appears to balance somewhere between a psycho and physical horror. What this film does in terms of physical horror is expose Rosemary's unpleasant period in which she is pregnant creating an atmosphere of fear and pain that sets the stage of real life at its most extreme.

The characters of film are all performed convincingly as though they were real people however one particularly interesting character, although very annoying, is Minnie Castevet, the overly interested but secretly evil neighbour to Rosemary and Guy. The Time Magazine describes her as:

"The film's most memorable performance, though, is turned in by Veteran Ruth Gordon as the coarse and cozily evil Minnie Castevet—sniffing for information like a questing rodent, forcing Rosemary to drink her satanic tonics of herbs, dispensing that old Black Magic that she knows so well in a voice that sounds like a crow with a cold." (Time Magazine, 1968)

Ruth Gordon's character Minnie Castevet is your typical neighbour from hell, which in some ways is ironic because she is a satanist. How the character is portrayed however is very clever. On the outside she appears to be a very talkative, intrusive, loud and somewhat forceful women, but as the film progresses her motives, as well as her husbands, become clear and the facade of an overly interested neighbour peels away to reveal the scheming and tainted soul that is the real Minnie Castevet. Throughout the film Minnie is constantly on the frontline, forcing her way into Rosemary's life and 'helping' her during the pregnancy, and in some ways she shows unwavering care towards the unborn baby, so long as it helps push her and her husbands goals that much further. Having said that though she still clings on to some of her elderly woman innocence right until the end which, in light of her satanic beliefs, is somewhat sickening and frightening. 

One of the most emotionally hard hitting scenes in this film would be its inevitably sad conclusion which would change Rosemary's life. Roger Ebert says:

"When the conclusion comes, it works not because it is a surprise but because it is horrifyingly inevitable. Rosemary makes her dreadful discovery, and we are wrenched because we knew what was going to happen --and couldn't help her." (Ebert, 1968)

From early on we can see how the plot of the film is likely to unravel and how it will end but as an audience all we can do is sit there and watch as the poor Rosemary is preyed upon by the satanic vultures that are her neighbours and soon enough her own husband. This unfortunate event creates an overwhelming despair within the audience that concludes with a mortified Rosemary being given the choice to care for her new 'devil' son or forget he ever existed. A tough choice to make indeed. What throws the conclusion into further despair is when Rosemary she her new borns eyes. Piercing, evil eyes isn't what a mother wants to see on her baby and at this point both Rosemary and the audience feel no hope is left. 

List of Illustrations

Figure 1. Polanski, Roman (1968) Rosemary's Baby Poster
(Accessed on 09.12.10)


Film4 (-) Rosemary's Baby. At:
(Accessed on 09.12.10)

Time Magazine (1968) Rosemary's Baby. At:,9171,900239,00.html
(Accessed on 09.12.10)

Ebert, Roger (1968) Rosemary's Baby. At:
(Accessed on 09.12.10)

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