I’m not a fan of the horror genre and I have to admit that I get scared easily. There are some films though that I just couldn’t miss and Rosemary’s Baby is one of them. Watching it made me realize once again how big is the gap between our days and the 60’s. The film has nothing to do with horror movies released in the 21st century and actually it isn’t that scary. That’s not to say it isn’t good. On the contrary, it’s a great psychological thriller that keeps you wondering until the very end.
Set in New York City, the story starts with a young couple, Rosemary and Guy (Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes respectively), recently married as it seems, who are looking to buy an appartment. They eventually settle in the “Bramford” dismissing their friend Hutch’s (Maurice Evans) scary stories about infamous incidents that happened there. They soon get befriended by the wealthy old couple that lives next to them, Minnie and Roman (Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer respectively). When under strange circumstances Rosemary gets pregnant, Minnie and Roman offer their help. Minnie arranges for her to have one of the best obstetricians in the city and prepares a herbal drink for her every day. As the day of delivery comes closer mysterious events start to occur that cause Rosemary to be suspicious of everyone around her.
Roman Polanski proves his immerse talent in this film which is actually his first book adaptation ever. Supposedly, he was unaware that directors often adjusted book stories to make their films, resulting in Rosemary’s Baby being the most faithful adaptation ever according to the author Ira Levin. Polanski (or maybe we should say Levin) effectively manipulates the audience from the beginning of the film. We are first presented with ominous events and rumours so to get a feeling that something terrible is going to happen. However, as we move on, despite Rosemary’s fears and suspicions, there’s hardly any proof for her outrageous allegations. She suspects her neighbours, but all they do is provide her with a herbal drink. She suspects her obstetrician, but he is one of the most renowned in the city, respected even by people that she trusts like Hutch and Dr. Hill. So, since we only follow the events from her point of view, we begin to doubt her. I mean, it’s only natural for a mother to worry too much for her unborn child. What if all these are just in her imagination and the 2-3 unfortunate events are just coincidences? Unfortunately, the film’s reputation precedes it. I knew something was going to happen from the beginning. It must have been a great experience back in 1968 when the audience was completely unaware of it. It still makes for an exhilarating picture though. The most impressive thing about the film, and the one that differentiates it so much from modern horror films, is that we never see anything visually scary. We don’t see any gory scenes or scary satanic rituals or jump scares. We don’t even get to see a single glimpse of the baby! It’s all in the mind.
Technically, Rosemary’s Baby is flawless. Roman Polanski did an excellent job. The acting is solid and it’s no surprise that Ruth Gordon’s portrayal of the sinister Minnie Castevet won an Oscar. The score is the icing on the cake and the mesmerizing lullaby sung by Mia Farrow at the beginning and end of the film is one of the most memorable and haunting elements of the feature. What else is needed to say when the film is still discussed and analyzed today almost 50 years later? Even the reclusive Stanley Kubrick was reportedly impressed by it. An amazing picture altogether.