Come to Mama, Rosemary's Baby



I don't know anyone who thinks of Roman Polanski, who was convicted of rape of a minor, as a feminist. I haven't read Ira Levin's novel, so perhaps we can thank the original source material and its author for the film's perspective. Or maybe people are complicated, and some men's artistic geniuses are greater (yeah, much greater) than their moral codes. I only know that when I watched Polanski's film Rosemary Baby recently (for only the second time in my life, the first time having been as a college student), I came away with the following revelations: This is a masterpiece; this is a feminist-friendly masterpiece; and this is one of my favorite films of all time.

As I'm working on finishing my own psychological ghost story novel, it was a true inspiration to me. 

(Spoiler alert) A plot summary is as follows: Rosemary (like the virgin Mary + an herb; herbs figure prominently in the film) and Guy (just a guy, right?) Woodhouse (played by the luminescent twenty-three year-old Mia Farrow and the kind of funny thirty-nine year-old John Cassavetes) respectively move into a gothic New York City apartment building and make friends with two elderly neighbors who seem warm, friendly, nosy, and fishy. Soon enough, our suspicions are confirmed: thanks to these neighbors, Guy has sold his soul to Satan to become a successful actor. Only, he hasn't sold his soul, he's sold his wife's body. Yep, the neighbors and Guy drug Rosemary so that Beelzebub can rape her and inseminate her with his child. And when Rosemary wakes up to find scratches all over her body from the Dark Lord's claws? Guy tells her he needs to trim his nails! Rosemary says, shocked, "When I was asleep?!" It's a horrifying moment, as the audience realizes Guy is basically saying, Don't worry, honey, the Devil didn't rape you, I did! 

As the pregnancy continues, Rosemary becomes less and less in control of her own body, and more and more at the mercy of men: her husband, the Satanic doctor that her neighbors and Guy force her to see, and of course, the half-human, half-Luciferean baby boy growing inside her, who is causing her terrible pain. When she reaches out to another (normal) male doctor for help, he of course thinks she's crazy.

Rosemary played by Mia Farrow is smart. We're never shouting at her to "Get out!" or "Run!" She does the only things she can do. We watch, knowing more than she does, but also knowing she can't do anything else.

I won't spoil the ending. It shows that even in this male-dominated world in which a woman is objectified and used as no more than a vessel for Satan's baby, there is one thing that only a woman can do: be a mama. How this idea is resolved is brilliant.

This is a horror movie in which much of the horror is inside the audience's mind. We have one scene in which we are shown glimpses of the Devil: claws. Eyes. The baby is described but never seen. The scariest monsters are the ones underneath the bed, inside the closet, inside our dreams, and of course, in our society and beside us in bed. It is a great irony that Polanski seemed to understand this better than just about anyone.

movie poster and still from Rosemary's Baby directed and written by Roman Polanski, produced by William Castle and executive produced by Robert Evans for Paramount Pictures, based on the novel by Ira Levin. 1968. 

You may also like

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.