Rosemary's Baby - 1968
Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby is the story of a young couple that moves into an apartment, only to be surrounded by peculiar neighbors and their odd antics. The bizarre behaviors happen one after the other pushing the audience along for the ride, not giving them a second to think about what just happened since they are now being given a new piece of information that they need to digest.
This movie benefits from having a great director, a great screenplay and a solid cast. The cast has two stand outs in Mia Farrow playing Rosemary and Ruth Gordon playing Minnie (Rosemary’s neighbor).
Mia Farrow delivers a quiet and subdued performance for more than half of the movie. When things around her start to get out of hand, she slowly realizes that it’s not all in her head. As she realizes this her performance also goes up a level, getting more desperate and paranoid at everything and everyone around her. This gradual change helps sell the final sequence of the movie when she screams at everyone, when she finally learns the truth.
With Farrow delivering a low-key performance it let Ruth Gordon bring to the table one of the most over the top performances (in a good way) I have ever seen in a horror movie. She is loud, funny and noisy always speaking her mind. One of the funniest scenes is when Rosemary and her husband are invited over for dinner and Gordon is talking (loudly) with her mouth full of food making them eat more of her cake. Gordon would go on and win the Oscar for Best supporting actress.
Polanski’s direction is impeccable throughout the entire movie, but especially during the dream sequences. He utilized sleek transitions going from Rosemary laying on her bed to showing the dream. All the dream sequences as slow paste and unnerving, putting the audience in her shoes. The visuals are creepy and eerie creating a sense of despair and claustrophobia. Along with the dream sequences, Polanski put to screen witchcraft rituals that are visually impactful and believable.
The screenplay is air tight from beginning to end. There are so many mysteries in the first part of the movie that pay-off at the end. Rosemary finally puts the clues together and along for the ride is the audience. The screenplay never oversells many of the twists in the movie, allowing the audience (for the most part) to not be ahead of Rosemary, both receiving and reacting to the twists at the same time.
Warning the next paragraph contains spoilers, I normally don’t warn people in my classics reviews (since the movies have been out for so long) but I truly don’t want to ruin this one for anyone.
The ending of this movie is pure perfection. As Rosemary finally learns the truth and confronts the witch covenant. There is a lot to love during this sequence. The first being Farrow’s performance, like I said above during this sequence she is angry and confused yelling at everyone. But her best moment comes when she finally sees her baby for the first time, as her eyes widen and she covers her mouth in pure terror and shock. Polanski decided to never show the baby, leaving it up to the audience to conjure up an image in their heads as to what could produce such a visceral response from its mother. The second being the last shot of the movie, Rosemary rocking the crib starring at the child and it fades to black. Polanski again leaves it up to the audience to fill in the blank as to will she truly be the mother to this child or will she come to her senses and leave the cult or even kill this beast. Since her face is a complete blank, you can easily see it can go either way.
Rosemary’s baby has had a deep impact on the horror genre. Many directors and writer sitting it as an inspiration for their work. Most recently Jordan Peele from Get Out said that he drew mayor inspirations from Polanski’s masterpiece. With next year being its fortieth anniversary, I can truly say this movie still holds up and is far superior to many of the horror movies that came after it. This movie is one of the corner stones of horror and it is truly timeless. Being able to go back to what many consider a masterpiece and seeing it just like that… a masterpiece is why I love movies.
Rosemary’s baby is currently streaming over at Amazon Prime; I can’t recommend it enough.
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