I saw Rosemary’s Baby this last weekend at the Film Forum with a group of friends, and it had been nearly ten years since I last saw this film on a big screen at the old theater in Austin, Texas. It was such a different experience for me with this audience, who laughed often, making this horror film seem more like a black comedy when it is so not.
So many more details came across on the big screen compared to when I watch Rosemary’s Baby on my tiny twelve-inch-screen TV. Mia Farrow’s fragile, freckled beauty is emphasized by the dark, oppressive architecture of the Bramwell and the concrete backdrop of New York, making the character appear so small and alone.
In this viewing, I was really struck by the use of color and tone. When Rosemary and her husband go to view the “perfect” apartment, they’re bright surrounded by all this dark wood and heavy, drab fabric while being led by a realtor who seems more like an undertaker.
Then they get their dream apartment and there’s a montage as Rosemary goes into nesting mode, having the apartment painted in white, yellow, and apple green colors, covering shelves in a mod print for their closet, and having furniture in a light wood delivered. Later when she’s become impregnated by the devil’s spawn, she goes about decorating the nursery in the same fashion–a palette of yellows, so hopeful, while her guilty-as-sin husband stands back with a hangdog expression on his face.
I think a lot of the audience’s laughter had to do with the contrast between male and female roles in the film and how it actually is today. Rosemary is the perfect housewife–so young, fresh, and eager to please–while her husband Guy is a lout, concerned only with his career. The night after Rosemary is drugged, raped, and scratched to ribbons by the devil’s fingernails, her husband smacks her on the ass to get her out of bed so she can make his breakfast.
The tension in the last few scenes is wonderful as Rosemary puts it all together and realizes who and what everybody is. Waddling and heavily pregnant while venturing through New York City on a brutally hot summer day. Trapped and sweating in a telephone booth and then thinking she has found salvation in a clean, sterile doctor’s office. It’s hard to think of when I’ve seen vulnerability so well done.