Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Tenant Review

The Tenant

Would anyone choose to live in the apartment of someone who has just attempted suicide and is in a situation of life or death? I don’t think I would. Roman Polanski as Trelkovsky, a young student, would. The film has barely started and the viewer is already pushed into an awkward situation where he has to accept the moral disagreement of living in the house of someone who is dying. Can you even trust those living around? Can neighbours who have witnessed a suicide be trusted in their moralistic righteousness? Should they even be trusted when all of them speak perfect English, where even the French actors are doubled with a perfect accent? I would find that slightly disturbing if I arrived in such an apartment in Paris.

Trelkovsky is a quit type. I would even say a bit naïf, and fearful of disturbing his neighbour. In keeping with his apartment series, the neighbours are obviously of a weird type, though they are not as blatant in their attitude as in Rosemary’s Baby. Though odd, they do not strike as particularly atrocious or eerie. This time, we are led into the mind of the Tenant, constantly wondering whether or not they are truly his enemies. The use of a dark apartment creates an oppressive feel to the whole scene. As Variety Staff says, “There is an effective atmosphere and it does create a feeling of personal anguish.” (Variety Staff:1975)

The pitiful outside appearance of the protagonist doesn’t foreshadow the strength of his inner self. He creates his own bubble of resistance to what he is seeing outside. We are challenged in the way we must trust his vision. Though we are seeing through his eyes, we are confronted by the unnatural that surrounds his presence. Nothing proves the contrary, guiding us as the movie evolves more and more into his madness. We excuse his madness even to the point of understanding his transvestite attitude.  Nick Schager from Slant Magazine describes the experience as an egocentric homage to the protagonist. “The film's nihilist point is clear: It's the world against Trelkovsky and not the other way around. There's an overwhelming sense here that the world is a stage and the people in Trelkovsky's immediate realm are in constant performance mode. Because everyone in the film seems to exist solely for his benefit, it's sometimes easy to brush Trelkovsky off as an egomaniacal loser.” (Shager:2003)

What must be understood in the end is that everyone accepts the world to be a set solely designed for them. Polanski portrays the experience through his own failure. Yet the success is not completely assured as Film 4 comment on there own review, “Frustratingly, because so much of the film is so odd, little is ever explained. But the macabre tone and eerie appearance (thanks to Ingmar Bergman's cinematographer Sven Nykvist) mark it out as an intriguing depiction of mental breakdown built round a dark comic performance by the director himself.” (Film4)



Images in order of apperance:

No comments: