When walls disguise everything or reveal too much. (Review pf Polanski’s The Tenant)

I first became acquainted with this film after reading how similar it was to Kubrick’s “The Shining” and Polanski’s first feature made outside of Poland, “Repulsion.” I had been a huge fan of both of these films so when I discovered this films mere existence I did not hesitate to track it down for viewing. Needless to say, I found the experience as rewarding as a horror film can be.

The plot is about a common man who rents a small apartment previously occupied by a young woman who attempted suicide. After her death, the man moves into the apartment and slowly begins to believe he is a part of a plot hatched by the other tenants to force him to a identical fate.

The character development of the man is immediately developed into the script. Polanski plays this character himself named Trelkovsky. Polanski portrays this character as being someone very shy and perhaps overly concerned with how he is viewed by others. The fact that his character is already very sensitive hearkens back to Deneuve’s reading of Carole from “Repulsion”, though with vastly different reactions from these disturbed souls.

The richly developed character of Trelkovsky gives the film a strength and meaning to push forward for me, the viewer to continue watching. Without it, the film would be difficult to grasp and the impression would be more of a ghost story than a psychological thriller. I ended up wondering if Trelkovsky’s potential unraveling was from the result of his fragile feeling of displacement (He repeats his plea for acceptance in Paris, declaring he is a Frnch Citizen), or if he really is the part of some bizarre game that his dementia distorts as being a evil plot to his own destruction.

While there are story similarities to the two films I previously mentioned. The style of those films is alien to “The Tenant” This film plays up the claustrophobic element to such an extreme that one can sense its deepening with every encounter Trelkovsky has with the other characters in the film. In “Repulsion” the story was more or less a trip into Carole’s madness while she remained completely isolated from people (mentally and physically).

Perhaps I am a mere sucker for psychological thrillers but this remains one of the best films I have seen in that genre of film. The film has a low budget look and that only adds to the atmosphere of these types of movies.

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