BY EMILY GAGNE
Year released: 1968
How it fared back then: Very, very well. In addition to getting nominated for multiple Academy Awards (and winning one!), the Roman Polanski adaption of the Ira Levin novel about a woman (Mia Farrow) who worries her actor husband (John Cassavates) wants to sacrifice their oncoming baby to Satan for a chance at success, it got pretty universally great reviews and brought in $2.3 million in box office revenue with a mere $33,000 budget.
Why it has lasted: Although religious fears are not quite as universally prevalent in modern society, the majority of this film still hits close to home. The base concept of this film — the possibility that someone you care about could turn their back on you to better themselves — will always be terrifying. In fact, in this day and age, when our thirst for personal fame and success, big and small, seems to be stronger than ever, it might even resonate more than it did in the ’60s.
There’s also, sadly, a timelessness to the theme of female agency, or lack thereof. Rosemary is constantly being manipulated by outside sources, most of which are men, letting them walk all over her until it’s too late and she’s been fully taken advantage of. Whenever she makes her own choice or does something against the expected “norm,” she’s villainized (for a lighter example, everyone chastises her decision to lop of her hair). It’s a sad truth that some women can still relate to.
Then, of course, there is that age old fight between putting yourself and putting your child first, with Polanski presenting a pretty hard to ignore case for the power of motherly love.
Classic moment: I could say the shocking-at-the-time ending, but I don’t want to spoil that for you if you haven’t seen the movie (although, considering how well-known it is, you may very well know what happens anyway). Instead, I’ll go with the conception scene, which is a total nightmare, both for Rosemary and us as viewers.
On the night she and Guy are supposed to do some serious baby-making, Rose falls sick after eating some “chalky” chocolate mousse and goes to bed early. In her sleep, she envisions a horrific scene in which Guy and her neighbors witness her being raped by a monstrous presence. I don’t know what’s scarier — the fact that she (and Polanski and Levin) could dream up something so harrowing, or the fact that Guy admits, with little remorse, that he had sex with her while she was unconscious (he says it was–I’m voming as I type this–“it was kind of fun, in a necrophile kind of way”).
Does it hold up? Hell yes! Since Polanski chose to do this film relatively no frills, relying mainly on atmospheric scares and slow building tension, it doesn’t appear dated at all, and you can really focus on the story and characters. Sure, some of the acting is a bit over-the-top, particularly on the part of Oscar winner Ruth Gordon, the actress plays Rosemary’s quirky old lady neighbour, but it actually adds to the tone of the second half of the film, as we dive straight into the pits of madness (or so it seems, anyway) with Rosemary and her growing suspicions.