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When people talk about perfect films I don't actually know what they mean. Perfect for whom? Perfect compared to what? I think that perfection is in the brain and heart of the beholder. "Rosemary's baby" is a perfect film to me. Scary in a way that makes you breathless. You're thinking and feeling throughout the film. One of the many sides of Polanski's genius is to suggest. And what he suggest is so monstrous that we don't want to believe it, but we do. The characters are so perfectly drawn that there is no cheating involved. John Cassavettes's superb study in selfishness and egomaniacal frustration is so real that comes to no surprise that he could do what he does to advance his career, but we are surprised, we're horrified. The spectacular Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer are not Deborah Kerr and David Niven, are they? So that they turn out to be what they turn out to be is totally believable, but Polanski presents it in such a light of normality that you can't believe it. Mia Farrow's predicament is as classic as the boy who cried wolf tale and yet, as told by Roman Polanski in the wonderful face of Mia Farrow, is as if we're hearing it, seeing it and living it for the first time. Every silence, every voice in the distance, every door opening. Your heart is always in your throat. There is something there that accelerates a constant state of dread. Very few movies have been able to take me to that place, most of them by Roman Polanski, what about "The Tenant" or "Repulsion"? Other movies that come to mind: David Lynch's "Eraserhead" and Martin Donovan's "Apartment Zero" But "Rosemary's baby" stands alone as a terrifying masterpiece.
Every bit of acclaim that Rosemary's Baby has earned is totally deserved.
The Dakota, located at 72nd and Central Park West, is the perfect setting
for the demonic events; all that rich Gothic detail in the heart of
Manhattan provides the perfect atmosphere, serving as a dark fairy-tale
world of its own within the modern setting. Roman Polanski knows this and
utilizes it brilliantly, opening the film with stunning aerial shots of the
skyline and focusing in on the ornate castle amongst the skyscrapers and
The acting is fantastic, particularly Mia Farrow, who is the only person I can envision as Rosemary. Her fine-boned fragility makes her the ideal target for terror. She goes from obliviousness to suspicion to fear to near madness without showing a seam, and we as the audience are with her all the way. And Mia is given a run for her money by the delightful Ruth Gordon, a comical yet sinister presence popping in on a deliberate schedule with pale green drinks and sandpapery advice. She's scary because we know her--a batty old broad with a seemingly sweet nature beneath her caustic surface. That such a person could possibly be a vessel of evil is a thoroughly unnerving concept.
Unnerving is the proper adjective for the entire movie. Unnerving, eerie, and penetratingly frightening in a very subtle manner. The subtlety is key, since a more explicit treatment would've spoiled everything. As the tension heightens, we feel what Rosemary feels: Curiosity, then vague suspicion, then paralyzing terror at the final revelation. At all times, the movie retains its dignity, from the opening and closing shots of the building to the flourishing title script to the beautiful music. Even on TV, this picture can chill you to the bone. The best big-budget horror movie of all time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
One might argue Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby is not a horror film,
since it lacks almost everything you'll find in almost all of them:
shock moments, vampires, werewolf, serial killers, even blood. The most
graphic scene is a nightmare sequence that displays a rape scene so
stylized it isn't actually disturbing. But one might also argue that
Rosemary's Baby is a horror film in its purest form, since it doesn't
depend on all those gimmicks to create its atmosphere. I prefer the
latter point of view.
So what is happening in this film? Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse move to a new apartment. Their neighbors are Roman and Minnie Castevet, an elderly couple. Although they are very friendly, there is something strange about them - the sounds that come from their apartment, the fact they remove all the pictures from their walls when the Woodhouses visit and other things like that. While Rosemary tries to keep a certain distance from them, Guy is very fond of the relationship to his new neighbors, and especially Minnie becomes more and more obtrusive, especially when Rosemary finds out she's pregnant - she recommends her another (better, as she says) gynecologist's and mixes a (healthy, as she says) herbal drink for her every day.
The pregnancy, however, develops rather unpleasant: Rosemary keeps feeling pain in her stomach and she becomes thinner (Pregnant women are supposed to gain, not lose weight, a visiting friend observes), and when the pain doesn't stop after several months, she begins to believe that her neighbors, her gynecologist's and even her husband conspired against her and want to harm the baby she's carrying.
All this is told by Roman Polanski in the perfect tone; the mood for the entire film is already set during the opening credits when we hear that weird lullaby, sung by Mia Farrow. And a lot of strange things happen throughout the entire film: Guy and Rosemary are told by Hutch, a friend of theirs, about the horrific past of the house they're now living in, a young girl that lives with the Castevets commits suicide (really a suicide?), Guy, an actor, gets the role he wanted so badly after the contestant who was originally supposed to play it turns blind, and Hutch, who might have found something out that would help Rosemary, suddenly is in a coma and dies three months later; all these (and a few other) events are precisely dosed by Polanski to draw us more and more into the film, while he makes sure on the other hand that the film doesn't become absurd. And he manages to give the film an ending that works, makes sense and is observant, slightly (but only slightly) funny and very disturbing, all at once.
Rosemary's Baby also contains two of the most memorable performances ever: Mia Farrow is haunting as Rosemary Woodhouse. She looks like she is physically suffering from her pregnancy and close to complete despair. And Ruth Gordon is amazing as the curious Minnie Castevet, always friendly, but also giving you the feeling that, hidden behind her generosity, she actually follows her own, obscure motives. If you have a helpful elderly female neighbor, you'll see her with other eyes once you've encountered Minnie Castevet. So, if you think a real horror film needs shock moments, vampires, werewolf, serial killers or at least blood - watch Rosemary's Baby and you'll change your mind.
Why aren't the horror directors of today as careful with their scripts as
Polanski was? Not that this is really horror. Horror as we know it came
into being with the slasher flicks of the late 1970s and early 1980s;
"Rosemary's Baby" is rather the kind of thing that the term "dark fantasy"
was coined to describe, by people of taste who noticed that the word
"horror" promised audiences something distinctly unpleasant and
The film's construction is marvellous. Things start slow - one beat, so to speak, to a bar - and gradually pick up speed so that by the end we are nervously tapping out semiquavers with our feet. Polanski also understands the gentle art of hint-dropping. Many events are filed away as tiny puzzles to be solved later, and they ARE solved later; others we don't attach any particular significance to at the time Polanski invites us to re-interpret in retrospect, AND chooses the right moment to let us do so. And then, at the end, AFTER we've worked everything out, he presents us with a surprise - a delightful, gratuitous twist which nothing had prepared us for, which we couldn't have guessed, yet which doesn't cancel out the story as we'd understood it. (Alas, many people know what this surprise is in advance. I, for one. Yet this foreknowledge did nothing to spoil my enjoyment: a sure sign of superb construction.)
All in all, a film that tempts you to rank it with the best ever made - which is more, but not much more, than it deserves - simply because it's perfect. Everything went right. Rosemary is a wonderfully sympathetic heroine, powerless without being passive, largely ignorant of what's going on around her without being at all stupid, and Mia Farrow makes you care deeply about her. The cinematography is pellucid; the art direction is subtly right; there's also a fine, odd yet tuneful, musical score. I can't believe I waited so long to see this.
I'm not sure about that but Rosemary's baby has got to be one of the
best, if not the best, psychological supernatural thrillers ever made.
The real test of a good movie(or one of them) is can it hold up to
multiple viewings? In this case-oh yes.
I cannot even count how many times I have seen this. A good-really good-"scary movie" must have more then the ability to merely scare, it must have the ability to haunt. Rosemary's baby is a movie where certain scenes become etched in memory. Movie as good as book which is almost a non existent thing.
This is not a slow moving picture at all or at least I don't see it as one. What this movie does, as does another Levin creation, Stepford wives, is lure you in. There maybe moments that are not scary but as it goes on and you keep watching you start to get more and more creeped out-the atmosphere is what does it-even if someone were tuning in and didn't know this story already-the creepy feeling that something's very wrong is still there strongly from the beginning, strengthening in tone as you get deeper into the picture until by the end and the final few scenes your blown away.This is definitely more subtley and atmospherically creepy then a "boo" in your face scare fest like "scream". It is the type of movie you very rarely see anymore.
If anyone, by chance has NOT seen it they are missing someone-I don't recall seeing this in the IMDb top 250-while I'm not sure I'd put it in my top 10, I still think this maybe should be there, in IMDb'S top 250, it's been an influence on so many other movies and so few movies have been able to follow the movie's lead in the same well done way.
Rosemary, in Mia Farrow's performance, is so immediately recognizable that everything that happens to her, happens to us. Her explanation to Dr Hill (Charles Grodin) about the absurdity she's at the center of, is so brilliantly written that she becomes more than just one of us, she becomes us in all the depth of our unspoken fears. To see this film in 2007 is really amazing. Perfection! And that for our benefit. Polanski is not one of those directors who concocts camera tricks to feed his own ego. Everything is at the service of the story. John Cassavettes is a scarily convincing weakling with an ambition bigger than his talent. Ruth Gordon got, what I, in my modest opinion, consider one of the most deserving Oscars in the history of the Oscars. Her performance is beyond superb. Okay, I'm running out of superlatives but let me finish with one more...Roman Polanski is the greatest.
"Rosemary's Baby" is one of the best horror films ever made. This isn't
because it's going to scare the pants off you with a series of sensational
jolts. This isn't the shallow, gimmicky kind of horror movie we mostly get
these days, and it isn't the traditional old-fashioned horror film of an
earlier era. This is a movie that came out during a period of transition in
Hollywood. The old production codes were breaking down and films could
suddenly be more true to life in the way they showed how people really
lived, acted and talked. 1968s "Rosemary's Baby" is a more sophisticated,
less elegant thriller of the kind that Alfred Hitchcock patented, but it
displays much more class and intelligence than the horror movies that would
come out in its wake. Popular '70s films such as "The Exorcist" and "The
Omen" are the prodigy of "Rosemary's Baby," but offer far less nuance and
much greater vulgarity. What we get here is a more naturalistic depiction
of modern life, but without the crassness that would soon explode into
Most of the credit for what makes "Rosemary's Baby" such a successful film goes to Roman Polanski. Polanski is a master at conveying to an audience not just a sense of the uncanny but a vivid depiction of it. His earlier films like "Knife in the Water," "Repulsion" and "Dance of the Vampires," display the talents that would come to such a controlled mastery in "Rosemary's Baby."
Polanski very faithfully adapts Ira Levin's novel to the screen so that the viewer is, just as the reader was, free to interpret the eerie events of the story as either reality or a depiction of an isolated woman's decent into madness. At the same time the picture can be taken as a black joke on the human male's fears of the changes a woman goes through during pregnancy, both physically and emotionally. But Polanski seems most interested in presenting a normal world, in this case Manhattan in the mid 1960s, and then through subtle cinematic techniques get an audience to actually believe that the hysterical, fantastic ravings of the heroine could be true. It is this tour de force exercise in suspension of disbelief that makes the film a classic. The horror films that have come since have had to ratchet up the shock effects in order to thrill more desensitized audiences, but this deliberately paced film reminds us of how much better it is to leave things to the imagination of the viewer. That is where films really come alive and remain so.
The Paramount DVD presents an excellent print of the movie that looks as if it were shot yesterday, along with extras that include new interviews with Polanski, executive producer Bob Evans and production designer Richard Sylbert, and a featurette from the time of the film's original release that really works as a good time capsule.
It starts off like one of those 1950's Doris Day movies. Young,
idealistic Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and new hubby Guy (John Cassavetes)
move into a Manhattan apartment building called the "Bramford".
Throughout most of the film we, as viewers, see and hear what innocent
Rosemary sees and hears. There's a veneer of normalcy at the Bramford
that belies what's really going on, behind our backs. It's the script's
POV, therefore, that makes this film so chilling.
At the Bramford, which has quite a colorful history, you can hear through the walls. And, as Rosemary and we viewers soon find out, strange people lurk in other parts of the building. The strangest of all are Roman and Minnie Castevet (Sidney Blackmer and Ruth Gordon), superficially cordial, but a bit too inquisitive. Roman is retired. His wife, Minnie, wears tons of makeup and pawnshop jewelry, and gushes with praise for herbal cures, especially something called tannis-root. And Minnie's friend Laura-Louise (Patsy Kelly) wears thick glasses that make her eyes seem to bulge, and she talks with a strangely deep voice.
"Rosemary's Baby" is one of the great thrillers of all time. Given the underlying subject matter, can you imagine how this film must have come across to viewers in 1968? The strength of the film is the script, which through its plot and dialogue implies and suggests. Not until near the end do we, like Rosemary, find out the presumed truth. Suspense increases toward the end as Rosemary ventures into the inner sanctum of the Bramford.
The film's acting is great, and reinforces the strong script. I particularly liked Ruth Gordon, with her delightfully eccentric behavior and mannerisms. Production design and especially costumes are lavish and colorful. Clothes and hairstyles, as you would expect, are very 1960ish. Visual effects are minimal, and are used to enhance the story, not be the story.
Given the film's POV, the story is rather subjective. Its interpretation is based on Rosemary's perceptions, images, and fears. One could explain that Rosemary suffers from delusions. Or, alternately, one could explain that what happens is real. It's all in the interpretation. Either way, it's a great movie. It holds up well, forty years later, a tribute to its writer and director, Roman Polanski.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Pregnancy is the time in a woman's life that, despite the hormone
imbalance and the emotional changes, is charged in an overwhelming
among of love and support and the notion that she is slowly gestating a
human life, male or female, a child that will bring her (and her
family) happiness. Motherhood has been depicted as beautiful, symbolic,
Woman being Creation in progress in ancient cultures, a Thing to
venerate and respect and even worship, Something capable of ensuring
the continuation of a family line, a tradition, and hence, life and
culture for an entire strata of society. Nothing is supposed to go
wrong, or at least, not at the level of what happens to Rosemary
Woodhouse's pregnancy, which is the ultimate wrong thing.
What Ira Levin seems to want to tell us in this "plot" surrounding Rosemary's pregnancy is that society and its religious tradition can be substituted by something much more sinister, as-yet unseen but gestant -- the force of will, the creation of Man's own version of what he believes will be the new wave of humanity. Is God dead? Well, considering the timing of the novel and the movie with society's disillusionment with Establishment, the onset of Vietnam, the loss of innocence of a country just years ago with the deaths of John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, He just as well may be. Religion and religious figures pop up during the movie, but seem unable to bring any comfort and only add to the vague sense of unease that permeates ROSEMARY'S BABY.
And this nagging unease is precisely what both author and director give us: something not quite, completely there, something that seems to be happening just off-limits, barely overheard through the flimsy walls which divide these prewar apartment buildings converted into chic, livable spaces. The way the banal elements that are so much a part of our lives are overthrown so subtly makes the horror that is the movie's denouement even more tragic. Surely the nice neighbors can't be more than just that -- they're so helpful... well, maybe a little too helpful. Surely the death of that girl Rosemary befriends was just a freak suicide. Surely the doctor's recommendations for Rosemary are the best -- don't doctor's always know what's good for us? And surely, one's own partner would not have done the unthinkable in order to advance professionally now, would he?
Paranoia of the unseen is a powerful way to tell a horror story without ever giving away any shock cuts or showing the boogeyman. While it becomes abundantly clear early on that this is a story of witchcraft of the worst kind, the only time some of it makes its way in front of the camera is in the extremely stylized ritual/rape scene, and even then, since Rosemary is having what might be the worst nightmare of her life, one isn't quite sure of what is happening, and of course, in the end, when all is revealed in a comic yet horrific way. That takes skill in a storyteller and what makes ROSEMARY'S BABY so completely disturbing even now, almost forty years from its release unto the public. Also the fact that it never relies on a twist ending so common today but on the nuanced performance of the actors portraying real urbanites enhances: from Mia Farrow who carries the movie and even at the end retains a resigned innocence to her fate once her suspicions are facts to John Cassavettes who plays his part slimy straight, and supporting actors Ruth Gordon and Sydney Blackmer who have the hard task of making kindly and eccentric hide sinister just underneath. Their performance makes you wonder who exactly are your neighbors, and if they might be harboring some deadly lifestyle, and makes you feel uneasy being alone even in an empty hallway or accepting anyone's offered smoothie.
This is definitely one of the best horror films ever made. The conspiracy that Rosemary goes throughout the film is truly creepy. What makes it so scary is that she goes trusting her husband and 'friends' without any idea of what really is happening to her. The rape scene is horrifying, very intense and at its best for the horror genre. "Rosemary's Baby" is a great horror film, there are no posessions, no gore, but the film is intense in content. It has power to make the audience nervous, tense and very scared. -********** A perfect 10.
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