violence (n.)

 

late 13c., “physical force used to inflict injury or damage,” from Anglo-French and Old French violence(13c.), from Latin violentia “vehemence, impetuosity,” from violentus “vehement, forcible,” probably related to violare.Weakened sense of “improper treatment” is attested from 1590s.

 

Repulsion is a film by Roman Polanski. It is even more than a film but rather a study of madness. Catherine Deneuve plays a main character, a young woman that works as a manicurist, who is constantly nervous and shares an apartment with her sexually active sister. She avoids and despises men simultaneously displaying constant neurotic shyness and repression that slowly turns into madness. Deneuve looks like unrealistic woman, pure, almost like a child that is about to be corrupted. She cannot face womanliness without fighting it and perverting it into a violent act. Once her sister leaves the apartment, her life is taken over by her fears.

Repulsion is a demonstration of female sexual subjectivity. It underlines many contradictions in the social construction of female sexuality. Woman has to represent purity and innocence, which are contradictory to any form of sexuality. The main character is scared of sexual interaction, she looks at it as something horrible, violent and unpleasant while in the same time she desires it. Carole’s ambivalent feelings about sex make her go insane. There is a constant war between desire and violence; they almost blend into each other. Her disgust is so strong that she started to desire what disgusts her. In the end of the film Carole even makes herself beautiful for her imaginary rapist while still being terrified of him.

Her inner world erupts out of her, penetrating and changing the outer world. The violent act of penetration starts from the outside world and from Carole’s interaction with men. First the sidewalk started to crack but she avoided stepping on it, yet when the walls of her apartment started to crack she could not avoid it anymore but to except it. Cracks are used to symbolize the collapse of purity. Once something has a crack it is inevitable for it to collapse.

The apartment in Repulsion acts as a tool to project the progression of madness of the main character. As soon as Carole is left alone her fantasizes started playing themselves out and turning the apartment into a theatrical stage. The apartment becomes a violent place where walls attack and crack, where rabbit and human corpses are decaying and where imaginary rape is constantly happening. “The nightmare world of a virgin’s dreams becomes the screen’s shocking reality”. Carole seems to refuse to notice anything that is happening around her. Pure, beautiful, blond child-woman, dirtied with the blood of her murder victims is portrayed as an amoral doll who is deeply convinced of hers innocents and unaware of her violent power to damage. What is the relationship between purity and violence? Is Repulsion an attempt to deconstruct cultural idea of femininity?