Review: Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Rosemary’s Baby


Roman Polanski
Roman Polanski (Novel: Ira Levin)
136 min.
Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, Sidney Blackmer, Maurice Evans, Ralph Bellamy, Angela Dorian, Patsy Kelly, Elisha Cook Jr., Emmaline Henry, Charles Grodin, Hanna Landy, Philip Leeds, D’Urville Martin, Hope Summers
MPAA Rating
Approved (re-rated R)

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Source Material

I am not a huge Roman Polanski fan. I’ve found the two films of his I’ve seen (Chinatown and The Pianist) rather distant emotionally. You never connect with the characters as they move through their films, which in the case of The Pianist is a major problem. However, with Rosemary’s Baby, perhaps because it was earlier in his career, not only does he connect with his character, her internal and external turmoil is the driving force of the film. And like Polanski, I’ve never really felt that Mia Farrow has had the ability to give her characters emotional resonance, yet she does an excellent job conveying the pain, fear and cascading insanity Rosemary is taken through over the course of the film.

Most of the rest of the performances are fairly unimportant, though some of the minor characters are a bit over-the-top, but that’s understandable considering where the film ultimately resolves. The story revolves around a young couple who move into an apartment in an old building in New York City where they plan to raise a family. Yet her husband (John Cassavettes) seems more focused on the potential of his career than with having a child with Rosemary, but after a time he relents and agrees to her hopes. They share the floor with a nosy couple played by Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer. Gordon who dons some amazing old-age makeup gives a cooky performance as the eccentric Minnie Castevet. She won an Oscar for the performance which does not surprise me considering how much she put into it.

The film features a couple of musical interludes that effectively convey the disturbing nature of the film, though music is sparsely used. The effects are effectively creepy and even though a couple of the dream sequences are a bit too lengthy, the film breezily passes. Polanski’s narrative skill is at full flourish here. His attention to detail, deliberate creation of false leads and lingering self-doubt make for a strong feature. That this horror film manages to avoid gore in favor of psychological terror makes for a rather pleasing experience. I am further impressed with how Polanski manages to create a credible sense of tension leaving the question “is she really making herself crazy over bizarre but unimportant coincidences, or is there really a coven of witches moving against her and her child?” until the very final reel, a satisfying conclusion.
Review Written
July 19, 2010

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