Rosemary’s Baby is a 1962 film directed by Roman Polanski, adapted from the novel of the same name by Ira Levin. It follows a young newlywed couple, Rosemary Woodhouse (played by Mia Farrow) and her husband Guy, who have just moved into a new apartment in New York City. Guy forms an immediate friendship with the older couple next door, Minnie and
Roman Castevet, who are almost comically welcoming. Rosemary becomes pregnant and there are multiple concerns that she encounters throughout the early stages of her pregnancy, so she seeks out a friend by the name of Hutch, who finds her symptoms strange and suspicious. He does some research and gives Rosemary a book on witchcraft, hoping it will help her discover what’s wrong. She researches using the book and other resources and deducts that Roman has ancestors who are satanists, and she is to give birth to the devil himself.
Aside from the obvious goosebumps that this move causes, it contains amazing design and style. Shot and set in the late sixties, it highlights some of the best fashion from the time. I marvel at all of Rosemary’s chic outfits and shift dresses. In an article by Olivia Singer for AnOther she writes; “(Polanski) employed costume designer Anthea Sylbert to, as she explained,
put people at ease and thus make the impact of the storyline even more disturbing… “He wanted everything to look ordinary. People are put at ease by ordinary…He didn’t want anything in the film to seem sinister.” And so protagonist Mia Farrow was dressed in a saccharine sixties wardrobe, her evil neighbours in garish embellishments and the result was indisputably brilliant.”
Mia Farrow also debuts her “career changing” pixie cut in the film. “It’s Vidal Sassoon. It’s very in,” Rosemary says. The cut cost the budget another 5,000 dollars, but, depending on who you ask, it was well worth it. The cut is iconic, and still referenced to this day. However, it was rumored that her then husband, Frank Sinatra, hated the haircut so much that he served her his divorce papers on set because of it. Although it is true that the couple went through a divorce during the shooting of the film, the haircut being the cause ended up to be a myth.
What I, and I’m sure many others, find so chilling about Rosemary’s Baby is the inevitability of it all. Abortion was not an option. The monster is quite literally inside her, growing within. The offspring is never revealed, which is one of the best choices in cinema history. When Rosemary blurts the iconic line “What have you done to its eyes?,” we don’t need to see the child to feel fear. The expression of sheer horror upon Mia Farrow’s face tells us
everything. It lets the audience paint a portrait of what they personally find horrifying. There are no jump scares, no crazy special effects, nor any screams throughout the film. It’s all psychological. The plot is quite close to everyday life. Again, we invent what scares us.
The film itself is even rumored to be haunted. Of course, Polanski’s wife, Sharon Tate as well as four of their friends were murdered by members of the Manson family a year after the film was released. I believe this is coincidental timing but important to mention. Perhaps a creepier fact, Krzysztof Komeda, the composer of the film fell off a cliff in Los Angeles,
mysteriously. He fell into a coma and passed away a few months later, in April of 1969. He awoke only one while he was in comatose. When Rosemary’s Lullaby was played to him.