Essay: Rosemary's Baby Roman Polanski's 1968 Feature Film

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Rosemary's Baby

Roman Polanski's 1968 feature film Rosemary's Baby is a very interesting and appealing work of art that discussed many important topics that are still relevant today. The film, based on IRA Levin's novel of the same name, dives deep within the individual psyche to both challenge and entertain the viewer. The purpose of this paper is to examine how the occult themes of this movie can inspire the viewer into a mode of self -discovery and understanding. Although the film is dark and creepy by nature, Polanski used this motif to explore the most common mystery of all: ourselves.

This essay will first give a synopsis of this film highlighting certain occult aspects of the presentation. Next This essay will connect the idea of self-exploration as the main motivation for watching a movie such as Rosemary's Baby. Finally this argument will connect the movie's themes as an appropriate, effective and shocking manner to force the view to look inside themselves for understanding and growth.

Movie Synopsis

The movie takes place in the mid 1960s in New York City. The story revolves around Rosemary Woodhouse and her husband Guy's recent moving into an apartment building. Guy and Rosemary represent a young American couple living the American dream of building a family in a nice home with successful careers. After moving into the new apartment building the adventure begins and strange things begin to happen to Rosemary.

Rosemary meets a neighbor, Terry, who lives in the building next door. Terry explained to Rosemary that she has been living with the Roman and Minnie Castevet, an elderly couple who lives adjacent to Rosemary and Guy. Shortly after this encounter with Terry, Rosemary and Guy find Terry on the street dead from a suicidal jump from the window. Roman and Minnie soon become involved in Rosemary and Guy's life after they discuss the tragedy of Terry's death.

After a dinner date with Roman and Minnie, Guy and Rosemary learn more about their neighbors and their strange behavior. Guy is charmed by Roman and his tales while Rosemary is bit skeptical of her neighbors. Rosemary appears to be a little freaked out by their Roman and Millie but appreciate their attention and neighborly behavior.

Rosemary and Guy's attempts to start a family becomes a very important topic for Roman and Millie as they take great interest in their situation. Guy becomes further attached to Roman and Millie as his acting career takes a sudden but postitive turn as he is awarded a part after an accident blinds the actor he is replacing. Other strange events happen as well as Hutch, Guy and Rose's old friend is suddenly struck ill and dies after Rosemary discussed with him some of the odd behavior of the neighbors and Guy.

Rosemary receives a book from Hutch's sister after he dies. This book is about witchcraft and possibly implicates Roman and Millie as witches within a coven that reside in the building. Rosemary is now pregnant and has begun seeing a doctor that was recommended by the elderly couple and drinks mysterious health shakes that Millie makes for her. Slowly but surely Roman and Millie's begin to affect Guy and Rosemary's behavior into doing odd and dangerous activities.

Rosemary's pregnancy is odd and strange. The conception of the baby was performed in a dream like fashion, where it appears that Rosemary was drugged and raped. Rosemary begins to lose weight and become very sickly during her first months as a pregnant mother demonstrating the extremely odd and mysterious behavior that is occurring in the apartment building. Rosemary appears quite out of character as she begins to eat raw meat and begins distrusting all who are around her.

Eventually Rosemary comes to the conclusion that her neighbors are witches and has recruited her husband into their coven. Rosemary tries to escape their control but is eventually wisped back into the apartment. Rosemary delivers the baby in her apartment, but is told by her husband and the witch doctor that her baby has died. She further discovers that she is being drugged and begins to doubt what has been told to her.

Rosemary's suspicion leads her to suspect that her baby has been kidnapped by Roman, Millie and Guy for use in witchcraft ceremonies. Her deepest fears are confirmed as Rosemary sneaks into the next door apartment and finds the coven and her baby. Rosemary is informed that her baby is a product of Satan and is needed to usher in some sort of new season where witches and the occult can attain more power. The movie concludes as Rosemary is caught undecided about the fate of her and her son. We never find out what happens next as Rosemary appears to be warming up to the idea that her son, even if it is the spawn of Satan, needs a mother and her motherly love.

Analysis

Before understanding this film, it is important to understand the meaning of the word 'occult.' Occult means hidden and not visible. In Rosemary's Baby, the occult takes the form of Satanism, witches and witchcraft. Satanism is very occult, but so is all religious ceremony. Occult practices rely on the power of mystery and the unknown. Polanski uses the witch motif most likely to prove a point in a radical fashion. The mystery of life is presented here, in a dark light, in order to gain the viewers attention and help deliver some of the main points of the presentation.

Roger Ebert's (1968) original critique of the film added insight to the film. He suggested that "the best thing that can be said about the film, I think, is that it works. Polanski has taken a most difficult situation and made it believable, right up to the end. In this sense, he even outdoes Hitchcock." It is quite obvious that Rosemary's plight is very incredulous and almost impossible to believe. The coven's success at the end of the story supports the idea that the power of the occult is very strong and can have horrible consequences if not fully understood. The film is indeed a success because the bad guys won, as they so often do in real life.

Peary (1999) offered some important information in deciphering the film in this sense. He claimed that "while some will consider Rosemary's Baby to be nothing more than a scary movie playing on the sensibilities of devout Christians and young mothers, others see it as Roman Polanski's courageous exposition of high society's occult mind state. Many however see the movie as an occult manifesto, heralding a new era. Rosemary's Baby is Aleister Crowley's "Child of the new Aeon," or Horus the son of Isis -- the bringer of a new era in world history. Whether it was intentional or not, Rosemary's Baby did appear at the brink of a new era and became part of an important social change. " What is clear is that the occult, as 1960s culture knew it, changed and became known and hence non-occulted due to this exposure of the movie and its story.

Occult knowledge does not have to be creepy or dressed in black in order for it to be understood. Occult, or hidden knowledge, is very powerful and certain safeguards must be put into place to prevent others from venturing into its powerful realm. Polanski used an unlikely couple to portray this source of knowledge to demonstrate to his audience that mystery and intrigue are everywhere if you only have the courage to look.

The mystery of life is hidden deep within ourselves and must be searched for in order to understand our journey. Rosemary represents the child within us all who has been conditioned to believe what we have been told but not yet experienced. Trust in… [END OF PREVIEW]

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