No preamble on this week’s pick (which is mine), only to say – fookin’ hell, I think I might be all horrored out for a few days.
Whether you consider this horror or not is up to you, I guess it’s technically a psychological thriller but who even cares, eh? The result is the same.
The Tenant (1976)
IMDB Synopsis: A bureaucrat rents a Paris apartment where he finds himself drawn into a rabbit hole of dangerous paranoia.
Trelkovsky, a well-mannered gentleman type, learns of a free apartment in a run down apartment block in Paris. On viewing the flat he gets out of the surly Concierge (Winters) that the previous tenant threw herself from the balcony. Ooooooooh!
Not yet dead, Simone Choule (Dominque Poulange), an Egypologist, is in hospital and not doing so well. Piqued by curiosity and perhaps to check that she won’t suddenly get better and need her apartment back, Trelkovsky goes to visit her. At her bedside, he meets Simone’s friend Stella who is visibly shaken by the accident, but also fucking fabulous.
When Simone sees them both she freaks out and unleashes an almighty howl. This emotionally derails Stella so T (fuck typing his name out every single time) does what any normal man would do in the same situation: takes her to see Enter the Dragon and gropes her in the back of the cinema while a pervert watches them. Afterwards, they go their separate ways.
Simone dies in the night, freeing up the apartment and T moves in. He’s pretty stoked to begin with but becomes a little perturbed when he finds one of Simone’s dresses in the wardrobe. In fact, the apartment is still dotted with feminine knickknacks that would freak me the fuck out.
Putting it to the back of his mind, T throws a little soiree for his friends and gets into trouble with some of his neighbours. From there things take a sour turn as he is blamed for all sorts of behaviours that aren’t his fault – being noisy, having girls over, playing Britney Spears too loud.
One night his upper neighbour and her disabled daughter come knocking to ask him if he’s lodged a complaint against them. He says no. The neighbour then makes reference to the old woman above, saying she is evil and obviously the one doing the complaining. I got a bit confused here because they all seemed to have the same names.
T himself is later asked to sign a petition against the nice neighbour but refuses as she’s done nothing to bother him. This further alienates him from the other residents. The residents are kind of dicks. He also starts to get the feeling that things are very much not cool around the block. He notices lots of oddity, including his fellow tenants standing motionless in the communal loo, which he can see right into from his window (lucky boy).
NB: Little aside here, things go nuts plot wise from hereonin.
T starts to lose his mind, hallucinating and imagining bizarre scenarios – such as an audience in the courtyard below, cheering him on, and a weird court jester scene. He finds hieroglyphics in the toilet which are a reference to Simone’s work. He also starts cross-dressing in Simone’s make-up and clothes, buys a wig to complete the look and rocks it pretty hard TBF. He starts to believe that his fellow tenants are trying to turn him into Simone and want him kill himself like she did.
T meets up with Stella again and they look like they’re going to get it on but paranoia and some heavy introspection stops play. He does later turn to Stella for comfort and support but whether or not she comes through is for you to find out.
I don’t want to spoil the entire plot, there’s a lot of madness all round and poor T is not having a cool time. He goes to the park and slaps a strangers kid which shouldn’t have made me smile, but it did. Don’t slap kids people, it’s very wrong. Even if they are whiney little shits in unflattering anoraks.
I’m going to park up here so you find out the ending for yourselves but let’s get to a few questions in time-honoured tradition, yes?
Are the tenants really trying to drive our friend to suicide? Will they succeed and honestly, why go to all that trouble? Who can Trelkovsky trust?
And what the fuckity fuck is going on?
Um. Look I get that not everything has to be coherent. This is Polanski and he does suspense bloody well, I’ll give him that. I like the overall tone of the film, loved the setting, loved some of the characters but the plot line itself is messy AF. Did I understand it? Not really.
There’s lots of debate about what it all means. Kafka-esque is term thrown around a lot. Sadly the only Kafka I’ve ever read is The Metamorphosis which doesn’t really help me here (or does it?). We’re possibly talking about an evil building pushing its inhabitants to turn on the new guy and in the process turn him mad but I think there’s a split personality scenario in there too. Guess it’s up to the viewer to determine for themselves and I like that.
This I don’t feel holds up anywhere as well as Rosemary’s Baby (which Jill and I previously reviewed). It’s no Bitter Moon (1992) or Frantic (1988) either. Really it’s an intriguing way to spend a couple of hours but it won’t really stay with you or change your life in any way.
My Rating: 2.5/5. Weird. But kind of compelling.