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Rosemary's Baby
4 reviews

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Movie Details

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Directed By
Roman Polanski

Written By:
Roman Polanski, Ira Levin

Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, Sidney Blackmer, Maurice Evans, Patsy Kelly, Elisha Cook Jr., Ralph Bellamy, Charles Grodin, Hanna Landy, William Castle, Emmaline Henry

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Rosemary's Baby (1968)
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Movie Review by Jarrod
May 11th, 2008

'Rosemary's Baby' is a visionary masterpiece from Roman Polanski, one of the world's finest directors, in spite of his turgid sexual past. This is a mesmerizing, creepy, and atmospheric horror film adapted (very faithfully) from the Ira Levin novel, which is itself a richly textured, unnerving story about Satanism and witchcraft, which are subtly depicted, at least until the end, and only then does it become clear that the absolutely worst possible scenario is indeed true. Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and her husband, Guy Woodhouse (John Cassavetes), move into a spacious New York apartment, where they are surrounded by bizarre neighbors and occurrences, the former represented by Roman and Minnie Castevet (Sidney Blackmer, Ruth Gordon), a kindly old couple. Minnie is a chatterbox, with a lot of social connections, she acts quite matronly towards Rosemary, and visits more frequently than the younger woman would like, but Rosemary is too polite to tell her how she really feels. Roman, Minnie, and Guy become good friends, he goes up to their place every now and then, leaving Rosemary by herself. Guy is an actor, in a bit of a slump, but suddenly gets a major part in an upcoming play after the actor who was originally cast inexplicably goes blind. This does not seem to mean much at first; it is odd, but there is no reason to suspect that something foul is afoot.

Guy insists that he and Rosemary should try and conceive the child they have talked about having for some time now; they are now in a secure enough financial position, and Rosemary is eager for motherhood, but her pregnancy is a little different than she had imagined. What is it about that chocolate mousse Minnie delivers one day; it has a weird undertaste that causes Rosemary to toss it out, and that horrific dream she has where she is raped by some sort of demonic presence (actually the Devil himself), thrashing about beneath it, as it snarls and penetrates her. Rosemary becomes pregnant. She grows increasingly suspicious and paranoid, concerned (rather irrationally) about the safety of her unborn child. She finds an obstetrician named Dr. Hill, recommended to her by a friend, but Minnie suggests she track down Dr. Sapirstein, an acquaintance of the Castevets. Rosemary loses weight; her friend Hutch (Maurice Evans) notices the alarming change in her appearance and is concerned. He starts researching the building she and Guy moved into, digs up something about Roman Castevet (that name is actually an anagram designed to conceal his real one), but dies mysteriously before he can relay the information to Rosemary. It is no secret that the Castevets are members of a satanic cult, a coven, along with Sapirstein and others. Guy got involved to advance his own career, which explains why that other actor went blind.

Dr. Hill assumes that Rosemary is delusional when she comes to him for help, and he contacts Guy and Sapirstein, who come to get her and take her home. She goes into labor and has the baby, but is told it died shortly after birth. But then she hears the cries of an infant emanating from the floors above and knows that was a lie. Her discovery of the baby's real identity is truly shocking; with the wryly humorous line "He has his father's eyes" that reveals much by sheer implication. We never actually see the child, but Levin offers a description of it in book. Rosemary seems to accept the child as her own, and starts singing a lullaby to it; this is the final image in the film, and it resonates; what is the future for both Rosemary and the child? Is he to grow up and become the antichrist? Will she decide to kill him before he reaches a certain age? These are questions the audience is left to ponder; I still ponder them now after having seen the film half a dozen times or more. Polanski keeps it suspenseful and macabre, apprehensive and unsettling, drawing from the source material as needed, but infusing it with his own unique style, brilliantly framing shots to maximum effect; especially in that scene where Minnie is in the bedroom talking on the phone, a little more than half of her body shown, but not her face, and many viewers have spoken about trying to lean slightly to the right to see around the doorway blocking her, even while acknowledging the utter futility of such an endeavor.

That is the reaction Polanski provokes in them. Mia Farrow is incredibly convincing as Rosemary, especially good at capturing her moments of emotional and psychological distress and confusion. Ruth Gordon won an Oscar for her performance, and while I personally liked her better in Harold and Maude, she is arresting and energetic as Minnie (at a spry 72), but also evokes a continual sense of uneasiness every time she is onscreen, it is not just Rosemary that notices something is a bit off about her. I have always admired Polanski as a filmmaker, and this film is one of the best in his repertoire, along with Chinatown and some of his early European work, like Knife in the Water. The Pianist was his most deeply personal project, almost a chronicle of his own experiences as a kid in Nazi-occupied Poland, where he lost his mother in a concentration camp. 'Rosemary's Baby' was released a year before his pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, was savagely murdered by the depraved Manson family.

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