Polanski week has seen me write at length about the cinematic technique, intellectual pedigree and philosophical themes of Roman Polanski’s Apartment Trilogy but for Rosemary’s Baby (1968) I would like to take a different approach. Arguably one of Polanski’s best known films, Rosemary’s Baby is wonderfully acted, perfectly paced and so tightly written and shot that not a single frame feels out of place or fails to pull its weight. From the famously ‘Doris Day’ soap operatic opening scenes to the macabre ending, it is close to being a flawless work of cinematic genius. However, where The Tenant (1976) and Repulsion (1965) are quite clearly about the descent into madness via sexual repression, Rosemary’s Baby deals in the more fantastical currency of witches, Satanism and the birth of the anti-Christ. The use of such fantastical imagery invites us to wonder what the film is really about. Rosemary is clearly not mad, nor is she sexually frustrated.
Rosemary’s Baby is a snapshot of social power dynamics in 1970s New York. It is a film not only about the treatment of women at the hands of a powerful Patriarchy, it is also an account of price exacted from the young by the elderly in return for the transferal of power to members of a new generation. Despite being a film about unearthly creatures, Rosemary’s Baby is ultimately a profoundly temporal film about man’s inhumanity to man (and especially woman).