Rosemary’s Baby (1968) is an American film (psychological horror) that was written as well as directed by Roman Polanski. It is based on Rosemary’s Baby, a bestselling 1967 novel, by Ira Levin. According to Eyrenci (73), in the film, “Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow), a young woman, and her husband Guy (John Cassavetes), an actor at the first steps of his career, decide to move into an apartment with a notorious reputation.” The couple had moved into a posh apartment building in the city of New York. The elderly neighbors within their new locality are satanic and they trick Guy into a plan that will see him succeed in the acting career, but at a cost of having his wife Rosemary impregnated by Satan to bear Adrian or a demonic baby. The film shows a patriarchal power structure that appears to subdue feminism, as demonstrated by the way Rosemary gets manipulated by the collaboration of her husband and the neighbors to such an extent that she has no power over her pregnancy (Sterritt 53). This paper is based on an extensive feminist analysis of the film (Polanski 1).
Guy gets entangled into a section of a witch’s coven that is made up of their mainly elderly new neighbors, who manages to convince them of the plan they have about his wife bearing a Lucifer’s son. Guy gets convinced to enter the coven willingly so as to benefit from a pact meant to open up doors for a successful acting career. This is why he takes part in the plan of ensuring that his wife gets drugged and is eventually raped by some demonic force. On waking up the following day, Rosemary finds herself naked and her bare body lacerated as well as scratched. Sadly, rather than consoling her, Guy goes ahead to make a joke that he could not miss the night and that he was the one who slept with her. This shows that he wasn’t even remorseful nor sympathetic to his wife (Sterritt 53).
One really feels for Rosemary due to the manner in which she gets manipulated as a result of the patriarchal power structure that subdues her throughout the film. Before the fateful night, she had spent a very long time trying to convince her husband of the need for them to establish a family, to an extent of even attempting to trick him by lying about her menstrual cycle, but he always insisted on ensuring the success of his career at first before establishing the family. Therefore, after they had agreed of the night in which she was to conceive, she was really looking forward to it. Unfortunately, the husband not only lets her down, but goes ahead to collaborate with the satanic neighbors to have her raped by a demon as part of a horrifying ceremony. While she thought that this was actually a dream, it slowly downs to her that she was actually raped and became pregnant. Indeed, this is very sad and a clear demonstration of male chauvinism and lack of respect for not only his wife but also femininity at large. It is sad that Rosemary married an arrogant and rape-facilitating jerk who didn’t mind exchanging his wife, her womb, and her psychological welfare just to become famous and to gain glory in the acting industry (Polanski 1). Rosemary’s life during the pregnancy becomes an actual living hell as she had no one to turn to other than the short-tempered and heartless husband and the satanic neighbors who didn’t mind oppressing her as a woman and a mother to be (Eyrenci 73; Avinger 1).
Rosemary’s evil spirit’s rape is a depiction of a perfect example of the highest form of violence and imprisonment of her body in a world crafted by her husband Guy and their malefic neighbors. In the early stages of the film, Rosemary appears firmly locked into a marriage that is purely heteronormative. The joy and the love for her husband at the beginning of the film is clearly seen, for instance, when she runs to her husband on entering their door, with sandwiches and beer. However, Guy betrays this love completely and following her pregnancy, she is imprisoned in her previously beloved apartment (Polanski 1). She suffers physically as her health deteriorates and as she excessively loses her weight. She unsuccessfully attempts to escape and in the fervor dream of the cessation, she gets bound to the eventual feminine charm (Eyrenci 73).
The lack of autonomy in regard to Rosemary, particularly on her own pregnancy, is very clear throughout the film. For instance, immediately she finds out that she is pregnant, she plans to see Dr. Hill who was recommended by Elise her friend, for the obstetric care. However, Castevets with the support of the husband Guy insist that she should see their friend Dr. Abraham Sapistein. Furthermore, instead of taking the normal vitamin pills, Rosemary is forced to drink a drink prepared by Minnie in accordance with the ‘doctor’s’ recommendation (Polanski 1). Despite undergoing tremendous abdominal pains, losing weight, becoming unusually pale, and having an abnormal crave for raw chicken liver and meat, the husband appears unmoved by this as the doctor insists that everything is okay (Avinger 1).
Indeed, this is a film that makes any viewer, particularly women, to rage against patriarchy. Guy, who should reciprocate the love that Rosemary, his wife, has for him goes ahead to work together with evil minds to have his wife raped, impregnated by Satan, and give birth to a demonic baby. On the other hand, Minnie a fellow woman is the one who plays the biggest role in making the life of Rosemary a living hell. She was the one who drugged her so that she could be raped and even after becoming pregnant, she constantly gives her then satanic daily shake that brings a lot of pain during Rosemary’s pregnancy. The neighbors and the husband collaborate to suppress Rosemary and her femininity too.
Avinger, Charles. “Rosemary’s Baby (Film).” Salem Press Encyclopedia (2013): Research Starters.
Eyrenci, Duygu. “Rosemary’s Baby (1968) USA Director Roman Polanski Runtime 136 Minutes Blu-Ray USA, 2012.” Film Matters 4.1 (2013): 73. Film & Television Literature Index with Full Text. Web. 9 Aug. 2014.
Polanski, Roman, Roman Polanski, and Ira Levin. Rosemary’s Baby: Screenplay / By Roman Polanski; Based On the Novel by Ira Levin. n.p.: [S.l.]: William Castle Enterprises, 1967., 1967. AVC Book Catalog. Web. 9 Aug. 2014.
Sterritt, David. “Rosemary’s Baby.” Cineaste 38.3 (2013): 53. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 9 Aug. 2014.