Rosemary’s Baby (1968, dir. Roman Polanski)
I don’t know how to explain how creeped out I was after my first, and eventually subsequent viewings, of Rosemary’s Baby. The first viewing was in the summer of 1989, I was 11 years-old and after begging my Dad to rent it, he relented and let me watch it. He warned me that it might be too much for me. My hubris knew no bounds as I told him, “Hey, I saw The Exorcist in the first grade, I think I’ll be fine, Dad.” And then my Dad reminded me that what I had seen was the television cut, and I had only seen the last 30 minutes or so of it. He had a point, and because I refused heed his warning, I was jacked up for two days after viewing Rosemary’s Baby.
I think it’s already “one of those things” to connect the tragic murder of Roman Polanski’s wife Sharon Tate, and the ritualistic and Satanic overtones of the movie, so I won’t go into that aspect. What I will tell you about is the sense of paranoia and futility that washed over me when I saw the reveal of baby Adrian. While the audience doesn’t actually see Adrian, the implication is that the baby is not quite a normal looking baby. The hands, the feet, and the eyes – all representative of his true Father.
The music score of the scene, which is minimal and kicks in at just the right moment, is just absurd and disjointed enough to off set me as I watch. And the casual setting of the revelation, with a bassinet draped in all black silk and a cross hanging upside down, a bunch of old rich people sitting around like, “Oh yeah, I’m gonna meet the Antichrist today, and then I need to remember to go to the grocery store after this for some onions…” unsettles me because of its kind of dismissiveness.
I mean, the coven clearly understands the implications and their proclamations that God is dead and that Adrian will reign and redeem the wicked still bring a chill to me. Rosemary is trapped in a room full of religious extremists, probably willing to kill her if she steps out of line. And ironically it’s Roman, the head warlock of the coven who convinces the group to let Rosemary acclimate to her new role as the mother to the Antichrist.
The viewer has to basically take a leap of faith that she is in fact the mother to an abomination of all that is considered good. Baby Adrian is the contrary of what a baby is considered, and to me that little irony of juxtaposing the love of mother placed upon a “pure” baby and moving onto a creature from the depths of Hell messes with my head. It did back in 1989, and it still does today.
I kinda jumped straight to the punch line, but this movie has a way of still messing with my head, even after more than twenty years of being exposed to it. Throughout the movie these seemingly lovely and welcoming old people are trying to take care of Rosemary, which they did rather quickly. But just as soon as it seems that they are trying to help her, it’s abundantly clear that they are after her to become an incubator for their Satanic plans.
I never read the source novel by Ira Levin, but I did read his sequel novel Son of Rosemary back in the 90s when it was first published and tried comparing it to the movie. There are some differences with the source material and the movie, so I tried tying those ideas together with the sequel. It was an interesting read, the sequel, but I still refer to the movie version to give me that sense of dread and paranoia that sometimes is necessary to recalibrate my bearings.