The Tenant (Polanski, 1976) is a psychological horror film, its restraint accentuating those moments which are harsh, sharply intense. Roman Polanski, acting as the lead man Trelkovsky, is very gentle himself (look at him, he’s very sweet), which affects the spectator into a meek state of mind, so that everything that happens to him jolts us in much the same way. We are made almost passive, like him, so the aggression of the effects and the horror is made stronger.
A staircase – threatening, nervous. Classic space of psychotic thriller.
Trelkovsky is a Polish man living in France, a French citizen, but his legitimacy for being there is constantly doubted. His immigrant status is held suspiciously against him. And he is doubly an outsider; in the country, and in the building complex where his apartment is located. He is coded as ‘different’, as one who at first does not respect the rules (although unintentionally) and never forgiven. This active and verbal exclusion works on his psyche as a neurotic lack of trust, leading to distortion of reality and distortion of all people around him. As he is the only one whose mind is in this neurotic space, everyone else is thus excluded, and everyone, in his mind, is against him.
In a review of the film here, this:
In another, a ball bounces with supernatural uniformity before his third floor window; upon closer examination, we find that it’s actually a human head. In a less imaginative film, an explanation would arrive, killing the enigma by consigning it to the supernatural or to a dream. But Polanski declines to make sense of it for us, and we leave the film with the mystery unresolved.
This is incorrect. The ball is not a human head ‘upon closer examination’. It begins as a ball. As Trelkovsky notices it, the film’s identificatory state slips into his mind – he sees it as a human head. Is it actually? It is true that this remains unresolved, and the mystery is part of Polanski’s mastery. It could be. But it could also be a part of Trelkovsky’s mind, the reality he is creating for himself which is really a distortion, but for him, to make the rest of the events fit into an explanation, this is what he sees.
More later, maybe…