There are movies which you have always heard of yet never managed to see; maybe because of its being so popular, maybe just because you heard about it so much that you always feel like you’ve already seen it thus you don’t have to watch it at all. Rosemary’s Baby was a movie like this for me for a long time. The 1968 made movie was especially famous among the last generations before mine thanks to its memorable poster, its music and iconic figures such as Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes. These qualities made this movie a cult.
Rosemary’s Baby can be interpreted differently according to whether it’s seen as one movie just by itself or it’s a movie which is a part of a great trilogy that employs loneliness, descending into madness and safety issues as its subjects. I choose to see it as part of its trilogy because thinking it as a separate movie would change all the feeling we get from this movie and its whole idea. It would make it just an ordinary thriller movie which employs an innocent young woman as its victimized protagonist. But when it’s been thought and felt under the roof of Apartment Trilogy, the whole scenery changes and the movie really starts to touch its audience.
It becomes so sad to watch a young woman slowly but steadily losing her grasp of reality just because she wasn’t exactly ready for her pregnancy and she was left alone by her husband. These aspects make this movie a touching and a tragic one. Throughout the whole movie, the thought of “Are these even real?” keeps lingering in our minds and choosing not to believe the movie’s own reality, gives everyone another character than they already have. Everything in the movie becomes so interchangeable; is the husband, Guy (John Cassavetes) really an evil man or is he just a self-interested, negligent husband? Is Rosemary (Mia Farrow) really an unfortunate woman who is surrounded by evil people or is she just a soon-to-be mother that can’t live under the pressure of pregnancy? This instability throughout the movie keeps the audience on their toes, make them always think and weigh what is really happening and what could be there behind disguise.
Pregnancy As The Real Enemy
As we can see from the whole trilogy, Polanski’s casting is a work of art. Although there are some people who say that they didn’t like Catherine Deneuve as Carol in Repulsion, everyone would agree that choices of actresses and actors are perfect in general and very well thought of. Same applies for Rosemary and other characters too. Rosemary had to be a very child-like woman who doesn’t seem to be powerful. Her thinness and her style of being dressed shows that she is still a young girl who is not appropriate for bringing a child into this world, since she is still a child herself. She is supportive of her husband yet sometimes it’s like she disappears behind the shadow of his identity. His desires of being successful as an actor prevents him from being a tactful husband. As a result, she is left alone in a house that doesn’t evoke the sense of security.
Since our body is our real home, having other things inside of it provokes a sense of threat. These other things might be unwanted or wanted such as pregnancy. But having a living thing inside your body that is both dependent on you yet so uncontrollable as a baby is a bit threatening especially for young women. For people who don’t have a strong sense of identity and who have cracks in the idea of the self, these kinds of disruptions may cause great harm, just like they did in Rosemary’s case. When a sense of self is not strong, this means it’s open to manipulation, penetration and inside destruction. Since Rosemary was not ready for pregnancy even though she thought she was, it was the enemy and threat to her integrity of mind and soul. It changed her sense of appetite, made her sick and she became a living dead as if there was a parasite inside her. This is a very extreme standpoint to a pregnancy, but these become true for some people in real life.
Home as a Sense of Security and Protection
Normally a place we call home has a stable size, closable doors which would protect us from outside harm, solid walls and windows. In Apartment Trilogy, we have already seen that this is not the case. In fact, these unusual and defective apartments have characters themselves which help us to grasp the real meaning behind everything. In Rosemary’s Baby, there’s a door in her apartment which functions as a passage to the other apartment. This totally breaks the sense of security and privacy. It almost takes place as a passage for invasion. That passage might be real or not, but it definitely symbolizes Rosemary’s already cracked and damaged sense of identity which have holes in it: holes in which the enemy can enter.
The neighbours might be truly absurd in real life as they have been displayed by Rosemary’s point of view, but Rosemary is the one who gives them their demonic identities and roles to steal her baby for a higher power. She even made her husband a team with them: the husband who is selfish and doesn’t understand Rosemary’s anguish of being a mother. Although she was planning for her future baby, the night in which she was left pregnant was a disaster. She was affected by wine and she felt sick since she thought she was poisoned by their neighbours. When she woke up, she saw the scratches on her back and learned that Guy made love to her, but without her permission. This was a great damage done to her body and soul. She felt attacked and betrayed by her husband. That’s why she fantasizes in her nightmare that she was penetrated by the devil. It was easier for her to think that it was the devil who have done it since she doesn’t think that Guy doesn’t fit for such a hideous action. She saw that he was co-operating with evil neighbours and the devil himself. The reason behind this co-operation was the desire of Guy becoming famous. This part of the movie explains everything if we think further of Rosemary’s paranoia. She is raped by her egotistical husband and she’s left all alone since her husband has important things to do, such as being loved by majority and earning money as a beloved actor.
A Never-Ending Guilt: Abandoning the Church
Church theme in Apartment Trilogy comes into existence in Rosemary’s Baby as abandoning the nun school and marrying Guy. Among other things, the main aspect that fuels her paranoia is her deeply buried guilt about her abandonment. We understand this from one of her nightmares. She sees nuns and she always tries to explain something as if she was guilty of some wrongdoing. She betrays the church and the path of God by marrying Guy and having a baby. This guilt affects her perception of her husband and her baby. In all three movies, both the church and nuns mean purity and salvation for the main characters. Being away from this purity makes them feel dirty. In Rosemary’s Baby this is at an extreme point that she even thinks she will give birth to the devil’s child.
Although we see a bright and happy couple at the beginning of the movie, we know that something tragic will happen because the music at the beginning is the harbinger of what is yet to come. It’s like a lullaby but at the same time it’s a lament as well. It makes the audience feel down just from the beginning. Although the whole movie seems supernatural, it feels so real when it’s thought as a woman’s tragedy who is not ready for the things that awaits her. This usual paranoia and loneliness that we can see in everyone becomes concrete in Rosemary’s Baby in an extreme form. But although it might seem far away, it displays a possible downfall of every weak person in despair. This possibility makes the movie so real, so from real life and makes its effects lingering for a long time after watching it.