I can’t remember the first time I watched Roman Polanski’s film Repulsion, but I do remember those first feelings I had for Catherine Deneuve’s character Carole. She’s a beautiful but detached woman (this would become a typecast for Deneuve) who is repulsed (ding ding ding) by men, and there’s the sense that some past trauma is what pushes her to be profoundly closed off from the rest of the world in general. When she’s left alone by her sister, the only person who tethers her to the timeline of reality, her feelings of disgust and alienation swell until they are thriving, until she starts to hallucinate attackers and grabbing hands, until she murders two men who won’t stop pursuing her.
Icy and cripplingly neurotic, Carole is not the kind of person I expected to feel fondness for, and yet that is exactly what I felt and continue to feel for her. I feel pity-soaked admiration when she tries to find peace in solitude, and frustration when these attempts are ruined by men who feel entitled to her time. The film takes the necessary horror movie turns to make her into a psycho-killer, but before all that she is just a woman trying to get by. And it really is maddening when you find out that openly disliking someone isn’t enough. When she ends up bludgeoning a man here and stabbing a man there, it is satisfying not because of any desire for blood or even death on my part, but because it’s a “no” that can’t be fought back against. It didn’t have to be violent, she could have tied him to a rocket and shot him into space and it would have had the same payoff.
Considering the history of the director, who knows if these were the feelings he meant to create in a viewer. Maybe it was some sort of projection. But in a world full of Trumps, and Weinsteins, and James Tobacks, and Terry Richardsons, in a world where I recently had a man yell “DON’T TRY IT” as one of my friends entered a room and then turn back to me, smiling, and say, “sorry, but whenever she comes around you disappear!” there is an undeniable allure to Carole’s core mission: to be left alone. I also want to be left alone — not by my male friends or by my boyfriend or by any other of my male loved ones, but by nuclear man, by Adam, by so many inescapable eyes and hands.
But if people are a product of their environment, if the landscape of where they live influences them, what do you become when you try desperately to be alone?
Creative direction and styling by Gabriella Lacombe
Photography by Vladislav Cuiujuclu and Andrew Jordan
Wearing: Vintage Jean Paul Gaultier, vintage Dolce and Gabbana