Decades Blogathon – The Tenant (1976)
Hot diggity, it’s already day five of the Decades Blogathon – 6 edition – hosted by myself and the awesome Tom from Digital Shortbread. That means we’re already half way through! The blogathon focuses on movies that were released in the sixth year of the decade. Tom and I will run a different entry each day (we’ll also reblog the other’s post); and I’m delighted to welcome Jordan from Epileptic Moondancer to present his views on Roman Polanski’s unnerving psychological drama The Tenant.
Years ago, I introduced myself to film by rifling through the filmographies of Kubrick and Gilliam. Once that was done, I wanted to find another director whose films I could work through.
Through a Google search using the phrase ‘mind-f**k movies’ I came across Repulsion, perhaps Polanski’s best film. The atmosphere and the camerawork instantly hyptonised me and after watching the film the next day for a second time I was left wanting more.
Made about a decade after Repulsion and Rosemary’s Baby, The Tenant was a return to familiar territory after the brilliant noir-homage that is Chinatown. It is a simple story about isolation and alienation, and their possible consequences.
It is about a man who manages to rent an apartment in France, where it is apparently hard to find an apartment. While Mr Trelkovsky manages to find an apartment, it is instantly noticeable that there is something a little strange about the building, the least of which is its incredibly strict rules, such as no female guests at night.
And that is only the start. With a perpetually annoyed looking concierge, the entire apartment seems to have something against Trelkovsky as soon as he moves in, much to his dismay and confusion.
The best part about the story is how slowly Polanski peels away the layers, gradually sinking into creepy and unsettling territory, where he has shone the brightest in the past. His character is a shy, honest man whose friends aren’t real friends, but hey, it’s better than being alone. They take advantage of him and mock him, while his neighbours seem to turn against him. Sudden complaints made against him that he knows are false cause him to become paranoid about everything and everyone in the building. The final act isn’t as thrilling as Repulsion or Rosemary’s Baby, but it is a creative and bizarre way to display the way paranoia and delusion can take over his psyche.
Polanski is great as the main character, who must be in every scene in the movie. He underplays this character well, as this is a man who would prefer to let people run over him than have his own way, even by supposed friends. The concierge is also memorable, played by Shelly Winters, who has a consistent hateful gaze, often directed towards Trelkovsky from the beginning of the film.
This is one of those open-ended movies that doesn’t smack of laziness; in fact the very opposite. It invites thought and introspection and for me several rewatches. If you like Polanski’s greats from the ’60s, this one is essential viewing.