Wednesday, 23 March 2016

"Rosemary's Baby" (1968) - A review.

Fig 1.
Rosemary's Baby (1968) directed by Roman Polanski, centers on the eponymous Rosemary, and charts her journey into motherhood, from the hallucinogenic fever dream conception of her baby,  to its birth. Throughout, there’s the suggestion of foulness afoot, as a paranoid Rosemary begins to piece together a possible plot against her, a threat, coming from a Witch cult who happen to be the new neighbours.

There’s a lot to be said of Rosemary’s Baby, in particular, the trickle of feminist ideology present within the film. First, it is important to note the charged environment in which Rosemary’s Baby was released into. For it was around the time that the pill had started to become available. “Enovid became the first FDA approved birth control pill in 1960. However, as late as 1965, the Supreme Court case Griswold vs. Connecticut proved necessary to end state laws that restricted access to ‘the pill.” (Poole, 2013) The difficulty, and perhaps taboo around the subject seems secretly galvanised in Rosemary’s Baby. Which is largely about a woman imprisoned in the world of others, wherein she loses her agency to her husband, and to an extent, the little society of her apartment complex - and to a lesser extent, to that of her healthcare providers.

Fig 2.
To start though, let’s consider the changes Rosemary goes through during proceedings. At the beginning, Rosemary is perhaps, a typical example of the doting wife ; Supplying her husband Guy with sandwiches and beer as soon as he comes home from work. She spends a large portion of the movie improving the flat with little flourishes gleaned from reading her home magazine, and generally seems to enjoy her role - to begin with (In that regards, she is a housewife). After the demonic rape however, this role is shown in a different light, “..her once beloved apartment has become a cage, her health, weight and hairstyle critiqued and managed” (Poole, 2013) This role, then becomes constrictive one that dresses up the paranoia of childbirth, birth control, loss of self, marriage and all of the worry these things entail and subverts them into a parabolized Witch coven plot wherein Rosemary is host to the child of Satan.  But it isn’t at all as hopeless as it seems, for there are little victories for Rosemary in her attempts to reassert her own control ; Her haircut, attempts to escape, changing of her doctor and eventual investigation into the Witch cult, are an extension of her own agency, even if at every turn she is seemingly thwarted, from Guy’s criticism of her hairstyle, her failed escapes, the doctor she trusts betraying her.

Fig 3.
But then, this raises an interesting opportunity at the finale, and indeed helps it become so utterly chilling - For Polanski  avoids “...supernatural or doubt-worthy effects, he leaves his finale rooted in the veracity of Rosemary’s reaction.” (Eggert, 2009) and merely supplies us with an uncertainty around things, as though in not showing the baby to the viewer, he leaves us to make our own minds up about the cause of her screams. Perhaps an exploiting a fear that parents experience in the immediacy of a birth, in hoping their children will ‘turn out ok’. But also, exhibiting Rosemary regaining control of her life, by accepting the child. In doing this, Rosemary’s Baby seems to buck a trend of sorts, showing us a somewhat realism to things, rather than hamfistedly ramming a “good wins against evil” ending down our throats.

There’s plenty to talk about in Rosemary’s Baby. It’s a wonderful example of the slow burner, where everything feels correct.


Eggert, Brian “The definitives, Rosemary’s Baby” [online] Available at: http://www.deepfocusreview.com/reviews/rosemarysbaby.asp [Accessed 23/03/2016]

Poole, W. Scott “Rosemary’s Baby and the Politics of Women’s Bodies” [online] Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/w-scott-poole/texas-abortion-bill_b_3709368.htm [Accessed 23/03/2016]


Fig 1 Rosemary’s Baby Poster [image] Available at: https://www.movieposter.com/posters/archive/main/73/MPW-36630

Fig 2. Rosemary’s new hair [image] Available at: http://bloodygoodhorror.com/bgh/files/promos/3THF7D3uPqhV6k7iKsr2EyjqVPK.jpg

Fig 3. Scratches [image] Available at: https://iheartingrid.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/rosemarys-baby-screenshot.jpg


  1. A very intelligent review, Joe :)

  2. Great review Joe - I really enjoyed reading it :)