Macabre with a Chalky Under Taste: ROSEMARY’S BABY
What really pisses me off about ROSEMARY'S BABY is this woman's lack of instinct. Naivety strips her of any potential in kicking ass over her abusers. She's trusting, loyal, submissive, accommodating of everyone's needs before herself only to realize she's a victim plagued by an unruly bunch of soulless creeps. What starts off as a seemingly "woman"s film, almost soap opera like (note the pink titles cards in the opening credits) slowly burns under the guise of a twisted narcissist, Guy Woodhouse (John Cassavetes) and his sweet wife, Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) deciding to move into Bramford, a creepy gothic revival apartment in New York where a coven of witchcraft-y worshippers just happen to reside. Rosemary's inclination which in a way kinda failed her was to adamantly insist they move into Bramford, which they do, and in another instance where her first instinct, which she betrays was at first shrugging off the invite for dinner with their nosy neighbors Minnie and Roman Castevet played by Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer, but ultimately concedes to going. This is the beginning of their undoing, opening the gateway to total disaster. I found this scene curious in a way that reminds me of a game of hot potato. You have Guy who's pissy and had a hard day of failing at acting, while Rosemary leaves the decision making to him, but he doesn't want to seem like an asshole, (narcissist attitude) and changes his mind deciding it'll be his "good deed for the day." Even Guy at one point says, "We get friendly with them and we'll never get rid of them" which results in truth and its all miserable down hill from there where the devil resides in the details, purposefully.
Given this was a novel written by Ira Levin, who also wrote Stepford Wives, seems to have a consistent theme when it comes to men and women. The men characters are often written with sociopathic tendencies while women characters are all submissive. Tonally it sounds like a masochistic feast fest for the power starved imagination. Richard Sylbert the production designer for the film called it, "The greatest horror film without any horror in it." However, the irony is in the horror surrounding the time period in which ROSEMARY'S BABY was released. I mean stating the obvious here to which Roman Polanski's wife Sharon Tate was later murdered in 1969 while pregnant with their unborn child by Manson's family is highly suspicious along with Polanski's guilty plea to statutory rape of 13 year old child in 1977. How does this man live with himself? Oh right he fled to Europe and is still making movies according to his IMDB page. I have very conflicting thoughts on Polanski just as much as I do with his other classmates, Woody Allen, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey to name few. For me it's challenging to separate the cowardice from the artist similarly to how one would feel about Elia Kazan and the HCUA in 1952 during the Hollywood Blacklist moment. But I digress.
Roman Polanski certainly adheres to the "less is more" aesthetic when it comes to the cinematography. He shows snippets of the devil as he rapes Rosemary. We never once see the baby. We see Rosemary's emaciated body throughout her pregnancy. We see the scratch marks when she awakens the following morning after Guy insists he got a little crazy with her after she eats the chalky tasting mousse. The look of disgust and betrayal on Rosemary's face says it all, because for one she's being gaslit by her own husband, and two as a wife is disrespected, and three she's pushed to the side constantly as Guy excitedly chases his dreams as an up and coming actor. It's frustrating seeing this character being dragged around. Its reasons why marriages don't work, there's an imbalance of power when clearly there should be some stability, support, and equality. It's so infuriating. What's even more demented is after Rosemary gives birth, she's sequestered, drugged, and like sunshine attempting to escape the fog knows something is amiss when her baby is not by her side. What does Guy tell her? "They promised me you wouldn’t be hurt, and you haven’t been, really. I mean, suppose you’d had a baby and lost it; wouldn’t it be the same? And we’re getting so much in return." What a total ghoul. Who's the real monster here?
Men who have an insistent need for power somehow always go evil, even if they don't believe it's intentional. As a society we're often led astray to fear the power of Satan. Strictly reading from a Catholic context, Satan was a fallen angel created by God who runs amok among the feeble minded, luring them into false pretenses. And yet pop culture feeds into it, expanding the parameters of his existence in such a way that's so far fetched it breeds more believability into Satan's reputation. To me it's suspect and from a Catholic's perspective it's a blasphemous act, I suppose. Especially when ROSEMARY'S BABY feels like a reversal telling of the story of Jesus. My mother who's devoutly Catholic will never watch this film as her mother (my grandmother) forbade her and it still holds true to this day. I on the other hand am a curious apple who fell far from the tree but also respect my matriarchal tribe. I am a contrarian at heart but can also evaluate fiction from realistic context and critically analyze or over analyze as an exercise of studious adventure.
You're now asking what does any of this have to do with ROSEMARY'S BABY? Well everything in a way. It's about gender. It's about men taking control over women's bodies. It's about blindly believing that evil will somehow make life better. It's about betraying one's instincts. I suppose in this instance if Rosemary's had stayed with her Catholic upbringing, she may not have gone down this road? It's all conjecture of course but maybe? The parallel fear that runs perhaps subconsciously isn't rooted in devil worshiping but the mere fact men still abuse women today. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 48.4% of women have experienced at least one psychologically aggressive behavior from an intimate partner. We persistently seem to live in a culture where people just aren't good to one another and it's really disheartening. People today are struggling with being gaslit, abused, emotionally traumatized, and groomed for what isn't good for them, and people who see this need to call it out, need to stand by their side and try to help.
Finally, by the third act when Rosemary's desperately waking up to the realization that something is certainly wrong, she attempts to have the baby without anyone knowing, but this fails. Her own doctor thinks she's nuts and sends her back to the hell hole. But if she had succeeded without them knowing where could the story go from there? Does she still become its mother? Does she abandoned it? Kill it? To me it would have been hilarious if she had taken it to be baptized. Just as a means to fight back. It would have been interesting, but instead it resides in open ended dread of acceptance. She becomes its mother somehow willingly it is the true horror of this entire odyssey.