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DVD Review: The Tenant (1976) Starring Roman Polanski

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The Tenant (1976)

Directed by Roman Polanski

DVD Review: Roman Polanski's The Tenant (1976)The first thing I have got to say about Roman Polanski's The Tenant is that it's a damn good film. The second thing is that it is a damn confusing film. After I had finished watching it, I was forced to sit and think, and try to decide if it is the story of man who is slowly losing his mind or if something more sinister was going on. Even now I am still not sure which is the correct answer. It works both ways, and different viewers will probably form different opinions about it.

Roman Polanski not only directed The Tenant, he also took the starring role of Mr Trelkovsky—a business man who rents an apartment in Paris. The apartment is at the top of the building and the former tenant, a girl called Simone, jumped from the room's window, fell through a glass awning, an landed on the street below.

When the concierge shows Trelkovsky around the apartment she seems quite unmoved as she tells him all about the fate of its former tenant and even guides him to the window to shows him the hole Simone's body made in the awning. It's a long way down and Trelkovsy looks nervous enough, as he leans out of the window, without the added help of the concierge's hand as she persists in pushing on his back in an attempt to help him get a better look.

After Trelkovsky has moved into to the apartment he invites a few friends over for a housewarming party and upsets his neighbours in the process. His neighbours are an awful bunch and the equally unpleasant landlord, Monsieur Zy, hints to Trelkovsky that Simone used to wear carpet slippers after 10 o'clock.

After all the complaints Trelkovsky gets a little paranoid about making any noise, and it is almost painful to watch his efforts as he tries to move furniture around without making any noise. When Trelkovsky moves the wardrobe—which still contains a lot of Simon's clothes—he finds something strange. There is a hole in the wall, plugged with a piece of cotton wool. Hidden behind the cotton wool  is a human tooth. Trelkovsky appears disgusted wuth his find, but then, afer looking at it for a moment, he replaces it in the wall.

Trelkovsky is not the only person to suffer at the hands of the other tenants. There is an old woman and her crippled daughter who are also victimized, and the tenants get up a petition to get her out. Trelkovsky is the only person who refuses to add his name to the list, earning him further disdain from his neighbours. Before the old woman leaves the building she knocks on Trelkovsky's door in the middle of the night. She has been a busy girl and has left excrement outside every door, except Trelkovsky's because he has been kind to her. "But they'll blame me," says Trelkovsky, and when she has gone he scoops up some of the excrement and places it outside his door. This is a rather amusing—and disgusting—scene that is only one of many instances where humour comes into play.

Trelkovsky becomes increasingly troubled because he begins to suspect the other tenants are trying to turn him into Simone and will force him to kill himself. The staff in the cafe insist on giving him hot chocolate because that was what Simone always used to drink, and when he asks for cigarettes they only ever appear to have Marlboro (Simone's preferred brand). The concierge even gives him the dead girl's mail. "But this isn't for me," He protests, only to have the door slammed in his face. Then when the glass awning is finally repaired Trelkovsky looks down and worries they are getting it ready for him.

Roman Polanski: The Tenant (1976)

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The Tenant ends with an impact and is disturbing, to say the least. It is one of those films that, once you've seen—like it or loathe it—you will never forget it.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Runtime 126 mins
Certificate: 18 (UK), R (USA)


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