Friday, 10 December 2010

Rosemary's Baby Review

Rosemary's Baby

[1] Rosemary's Baby (1968)

Rosemary's Baby is another chillingly atmospheric thriller by Roman Polanski. The film is about a young couple who move into a new apartment, only to be surrounded by peculiar neighbors and occurrences. When the wife becomes mysteriously pregnant, paranoia over the safety of her unborn child begins controlling her life.

[2] Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse (1968)

[1]"It is a horror film, not very scary. There are several false frights - a closet door opening ominously to reveal a vacuum cleaner, a letter in a dead woman's hands that reads "I can no longer associate myself," dropped objects in a dark cellar at the Dakota on West 72nd Street. But the only really jumpy second occurs when Miss Farrow speaks suddenly and startles a reading witch." (Adler, 1968)

Rosemary's Baby is actually not very "horrific" at all, the films structure and suggestiveness is the key to its horror factor. Rosemary's Baby is very predictable from early on, you already realise what is going to happen to Rosemary because Polanski has written it in a way that's inevitable. For example from the time we see that Guy, after not being interested at all, has become so intrigued with the nosey neighbours so early on, you know something is bound to go wrong. Rosemary wasn't really too keen on the neighbours from the start, but her gut starts to tell her, after Guys sudden spark in interest, that something is definitely wrong here.

[3] Neighbour Minnie Castevet (1968)

The film is undoubtedly about a woman who's life is being controlled from almost every angle by a group of people from different relations. Her husband is using her to for a successful career while the neighbours use her baby as sacrifice at Satan's command, seeing Rosemary as nothing more then a baby incubator. [2]"Usually, tabloid tawdriness is immaterial to a film's value, but with Rosemary's Baby, those details feed into the film's defiantly feminist themes" (Grierson, 2008). Rosemary's Baby does a great job in putting across its "defiant feminist themes" by displaying Rosemary's never ending struggle to "reclaim" herself from the neighbours and her husband who have her under their control. In no way is this a good thing in general terms, but the way the film shows these principles plus the distress a woman can feel during pregnancy—from doctors with suspect bedside manners to husbands who grow distant and disinterested, and from a world that dismisses their fears as the by-product of raging hormones- is absolutely brilliant.

 [4] Rosemary holding a knife (1968)

The film is very blue in terms of colours used, blue and yellow are the most predominant colours we see. Blue can be seen in many different ways depending on the atmosphere and context, here we see Polanski has used it to suggest Rosemary's emptiness, how not being in control of herself makes her feel cold, used and unloved. Blue is also used because the film is not a gory horror (so red is not used), but more an emotional uncanny film which creates unease. Camera shots are also used accordingly in this film. Unlike Polanski's earlier film "Repulsion", Rosemary's baby is comprised of wider shots to involve other characters in the film. These interactive shots are done to tell the audience that Rosemary is not the one to blame for her own misfortune, but it is the people around her that are the cause. Close ups are only used when she is thinking (and we probably know what she is thinking), being sneaky or in state of panic.
[5] Rosemary in phonebox (1968)
[3]"One of the problems facing ROSEMARY’S BABY today is that we all know the surprise ending, so much of what proceeds it feels like an extended prologue to the brief revelation of horror in the finale scene." (Biodrowski, 2008)
Rosemary's Baby is very Satanic in its underlying motto, and this all becomes clear in the final scene. What keeps the audience interested is that the film is laid out like a paranoid thriller that, in retrospect, leaves open the question of whether or not anything supernatural really has occurred. Yes, the coven really believe that Rosemary’s baby is the child of Satan, and they convince Rosemary of this, but is there really any reason to believe they are correct?
The film plays off the sense that Rosemary’s condition, with all the hormonal changes that go with it, may be leading to mood swings that cause her to succumb to paranoia. We see this in a scene where Rosemary goes to a doctor seeking help and babbles out a litany of her suspicions — which sound like crazy ramblings that add up to nothing. The doctor comes across very understanding and helpful at first, which puts Rosemary at ease as she is desperate to find someone who will believe her. Unfortunately the doctor happens to be in on this masonry cult and sells her out to her husband and neighbour. Of course, ultimately her paranoia turns out to be justified — at least to the extent that she is the victim of a conspiracy, but whether or not it is supernatural in nature is not definitively clear. Rosemary dreams of being ravished by the devil, which is the result of a suspicious drink her neighbour Mrs Castevet prescribes to her daily without fail. This drink is also the cause of Rosemary's decline in healthy well being. The drink could also be the cause of her baby's appearance. A couple people die while in comas, and another loses his sight (so that Guy can take his place in an important acting role), those could be mere coincidences caused by natural causes, or they could be purposely inflicted on people. Its up to you to decide.
[6] Minnie & Rosemary holding suspicious drink (1968)

[4]"the final scene carries a wonderfully twisted sense of triumphant evil that is genuinely disturbing" (Biodrowski, 2008)

We follow Rosemary throughout the film on her painful mission to try and regain control of herself. As an audience we can predict that the ending is not going to be pleasant one, but there's still that little bit of hope left in all of us that something miraculous will happened and everything will be just fine. Seeing that the film does infact have a sad ending, and certainly one that we would prefer not to have to digest, really does hit home and makes the thought of it potentially being something real that can actually happen to someone really horrific. There is a certain touch of black humor in the proceedings that underlines the horror. the lavish joy of the coven is terrifying, and it is tragic to see Rosemary becoming one of them (in terms of agreeing to raise the child).

In the end, The realistic situation lends the film a sense of credibility lacking in most horror stories, which is maintained by presenting the supernatural interpretation in an ambiguous way.

Illustration List:

[1] Roman Polanski (1968), Rosemary's Baby [electronic print] Available at:

[2] Roman Polanski (1968), Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse [electronic print] Available at:
[3] Roman Polanski (1968), Neighbour Minnie Castevet [electronic print] Available at:
[4] Roman Polanski (1968), Rosemary holding a knife [electronic print] Available at:

[5] Roman Polanski (1968), Rosemary in phonebox [electronic print] Available at:

[6] Roman Polanksi (1968), Minnie & Rosemary holding suspicious drink [electronic print] Available at:


[1] Adler, Renata. (June 13, 1968), Rosemary's Baby. In: The New York Times [online] Available at:

[2] Grierson, Tim. (Oct 29, 2008), Rosemary's Baby Turns 40. In: The Village Voice Movies [online] Available at:

[3] Biodrowski, Steve. (April 27, 2008), Rosemary's Baby (1968)- Horror Film Review. In: Cinefantastique [online] Available at:

[4] Biodrowski, Steve. (April 27, 2008), Rosemary's Baby (1968)- Horror Film Review. In: Cinefantastique [online] Available at:

1 comment:

  1. This is an impressive and articulate review, Sean :D Well done.