Rosemary’s Baby – Rosemary’s World


After seeing the film for the first time my initial reaction was to watch it all over again to better understand just how ‘absolute’ Rosemary’s naivety, and The Castavet’s immorality really was. I thought it was remarkable that two couples, who were just on polar opposites of the spectrum, could meet in the one place, and that the ‘good’ couple would eventually have their ‘goodness’ overridden by the ‘bad’ couple and their ‘badness’. Because of this, it would have to be understood how different their two different worlds were, hence Polanski must have stressed the rigidity of their two different worlds at various points in the film. The Bramford is after all, the scene of a showdown between good and evil, hence the good and evil sides must be understood.

Rosemary and Guy’s marriage is completely self-contained, meaning that they are oblivious in the beginning of the film to what is happening around them. In the opening scenes, Rosemary and Guy laugh at the African American usher who is ‘dusted’ by the caretaker, as though a piece of furniture, and a handyman glares at Guy when he thinks he is being ‘checked out’. These attitudes are a stark contrast to what eventually happens in the same building. If you wanted to read this much into it, you could say that The Bramford is Dante’s vision of Hell. One level contains small acts of racism. Another contains full blown devil worship. As I said though, it’s only if you wanted to read this much into it…..

As the film progresses, it becomes apparent just how subservient Rosemary is to Guy. She spends the day cleaning and outfitting their house, and when he arrives home from work, she automatically greats him with a sandwich and a drink (was this normal in the 60’s? I don’t know….I wasn’t alive then). It is her suggestion that they make love when in the new house, and the mechanical way in which he turns off the light and takes off his clothes suggests a lack of intimacy or affection between them, again a contrast to the previous scene. As the film progresses he begins to mistreat her, and is increasingly cruel – a contrast to the beginning scenes – and when he apologises to her later, she welcomes it, as though unable to be honest with him. Near the end of the film, when the camera cuts briefly to her bookshelf, we can see that her collection is comprised of ‘Self-help’ books about being a better wife, and how to better understand your husband, further emphasising her idealised view of married life. As she begins to learn the truth about her neighbours and friends, she becomes increasingly hysterical and frantic, as though only just comprehending what is happening. Guy’s behaviour, and the ease with which he makes the pact with The Castevets, suggests he has a history of being self-involved. Rosemary is naturally trusting and she instinctively puts Guy and others first, as highlighted by scenes of her welcoming her neighbours (even when she is wanting private time). She is completely shut off from reality, innocent and naïve and seemingly impervious to reality. Depressingly, this makes her an easy target. As Rosemary begins to slowly realise the truth, the ‘rigidity’ of the evil is gradually shown. This is accentuated by the final scene, when Rosemary’s maternal instincts begin to emerge. The camera draws back from the window, away from the Bramford, and across town, a juxtaposition to the opening credits (which had the camera pan across the city to rest on the apartment, as though ‘introducing‘ us to the Bramford, and the worlds within it). I love how the audience can be shown in one shot a horrible truth, and then Polanski can pull the camera away from the window, to have it pan across the city on such an idyllic day. This makes the evil so much scarier! It demonstrates to the audience that evil can exist in such a mundane setting lurking within potential domestic bliss. Bob Evans remarks that this is a horror film without horror, and he is right to an extent. It doesn’t have any of the token wam-bam editing that is the prerequisite for the latest batch of horror and torture porn films. Instead it has a much more nuanced approach using the subtly of the camera work and the acting choices to play on the audiences innate fears.

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