“He chose you, honey! From all the women in the world to be the mother of his only living son!”
‘Rosemary’s Baby’, directed by Roman Polanski in 1968, is an American horror movie starring Mia Farrow as the titular Rosemary, the wife of an aspiring actor called Guy, played by John Cassavetes. Rosemary and Guy move into an apartment in an old New York City apartment building where they immediately make friends with the neighbours. Rosemary falls pregnant and is looked after by fellow occupants Minnie and Roman Castevet, who find her a private doctor and ensure she is supplied with herbal remedies. Rosemary’s pregnancy is painful and leads to her becoming paranoid about the people around her including her husband, as it turns out not without reason. It’s a perfectly pitched and paced shocker with a charismatic central performance from Mia Farrow. Throughout the film, as with the tonaly similar ‘The Wicker Man’, it is unclear how much of Rosemary’s suspicions are inside her head or real, and Polanski delays the tipping point between the reality and fantasy just enough to make it almost unbearable. The whole film, in essence, feels like one of those Hitchcock suspense sequences, but drawn out over two hours. It’s dark, sombre and, when the baby is finally revealed, just plain wrong. There’s a strange subtlety in this film that, despite the overall melodrama, grounds the viewer and makes the horror even more horrific. It’s not difficult to see eerie pre-echoes of Polanski’s tragic involvement with the Manson family murders a year later, and this only adds to the mystique of the film.
Would I recommend it? Yes – it’s a perfectly crafted horror movie. Polanski achieves what Kubrick did with ‘The Shining’, a horror movie that transcends its genre. Watch in a paranoid double bill with ‘The Wicker Man’.