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Thursday

Take a look: Rosemary's baby

Rosemary's Baby is a film based on a book by Ira Levin. Levin wrote a few suspense books that were turned into films, The Stepford Wives, A Kiss Before Dying, which I recall enjoying the first film of, The Boys From Brazil, which I enjoyed as an SF thriller, and Patriot Games, so he has done well.

Rosemary's Baby has become one of those films so imbued in the cultural consciousness that you don't have to have seen it in order to know about. It's a famous horror flick, one of those devil child coming to destroy the world stories.

What adds to the film's creepiness is the things only half seen, the voices through walls or around corners, things too small for Rosemary to piece together.

Actually, watching it recently in the biggest chunk of it I've ever seen in one sitting, it's not particularly clear why the villains want to create this child. There are a couple of suggestions that they may wish to eat the child, or use its blood for magic, but then you have to wonder what, from the devil's side, the point of that would be. The sense of threat, though, suggests that they are going to take over the world and this will not be good for anyone.

Of course, some of us may recall another story of the devil attempting to introduce his spawn into the world, but the child in that case turned prophet on his own account and then created Camelot.
It's not clear whether Rosemary will be able to get her baby similarly baptised and out of the devil's reach or whether she will always be trapped by her maternal instincts and the machinations of the witches around her.

What struck me during this viewing, though, was that with the supernatural element removed what remained was a fairly common story, a kind of feminist tale without the happy ending where the woman realises she can get along without a husband. Here in Rosemary's Baby we have an authoritarian husband who tells his wife who she can and can't see and what doctor she must have. When Rosemary's pregnacy has put her in continual agony and her friends tell her that this is not normal or right, that she must see another doctor for another opinion, he calls them bitches. He doesn't want interference.

In The Stepford Wives, made in 1975 we see husbands who are willing to murder their wives in order to have them replaced by robotically perfect housewives. Indeed, the robot replicas have to murder their originals themselves, destroy the true woman, in order to replace her. The men seem content with this.

In Rosemary's Baby the husband is similarly happy for his wife to suffer in order to advance his career. His baby, a fellow actor, anyone who gets in his way must be got rid of. That he has sold his soul to the devil's cult is never explicitly stated. We are shown, not told. This makes the film very creepy. The husband is given the chance to collude with his creepy neighbours. Rosemary is never consulted about anything. The baby is conceived in rape, a fact which her husband laughs off.

Rosemary's Baby stars Mia Farrow, with lots of yellow around her, and often in Peter Pan collars, all of which suits her and gives a look of ordinary life and innocence while the cult closes in around her.

Rosemary's Baby was made in 1968, and it's worn well. Worth a look.
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