The Tenant (1976)
by Roman Polanski
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
made in the awning. It's a long way down and Trelkovsy
looks nervous enough, as he leans out of the window, without
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
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
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
that was what Simone always used to drink, and when he asks for
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
awning is finally repaired Trelkovsky looks down and worries they
are getting it ready for him.
Tenant ends with an impact and is disturbing, to
least. It is one of those films that, once you've seen—like it or
loathe it—you will never forget it.
4 out of 5.
Runtime 126 mins
Certificate: 18 (UK), R (USA)