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July 8, 2016

Addendum: Movie Review || Rosemary's Baby (2014)

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After reading the novel recently, I decided to binge on the miniseries version of 'Rosemary's Baby' and I have to correct my previous statement that the novel and film were exactly the same (I have not seen the original directed by Roman Polanski and it is on my to-do list!). The miniseries version might not have the same creepy tension as in the novel, but it is noteworthy for the impressive modernisation of Rosemary's context and situation, and a more macabre view of Rosemary's destiny.

In the novel, Rosemary and her husband happen to be lucky enough to lease an apartment in the Bramford in New York City and thus simply happen to become involved in the plot to birth the Devil. In the television version, however, the setting is the more romantic Paris and the building is La Chimere, and the Woodhouses are practically led by the bull-ring to become involved in the plan: Rosemary is literally chosen to become the vessel for the anti-Christ and the Castevets do everything in their power to get the couple to stay in La Chimere, be absolutely indebted to them, and entirely under their influence. In this way, the film has a different creepiness to the original story, and the witches of the building have a supreme power that is not revealed quite so much in the novel.

I enjoyed the alterations to the context of Rosemary's story. Paris and its long history make for a more historical basis in witchcraft, although the existence of a coven in New York City is more unexpected. Of course, Paris allowed for the beautiful scene just before Rosemary discovers she is pregnant where she is surrounded by the consecrated skulls of the dead in the catacombs and falls into a precipice - a metaphor for the loneliness she is destined to feel in the hands of a coven and as the mother of a history-changing child.

In the television series, Guy is no longer dreaming an outdated dream of becoming an actor - he wants to write. However, his writer's block seems to have been brought about by Rosemary having a miscarriage. The couple have run away from this reality to Paris. This modern viewpoint was perfectly suited to the story, as is the couple's isolation in Paris, far away from home and even from many people who speak English.

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I also enjoyed the sinister representations of Roman and Margaux Castevet, the leaders of the coven. Their true evil is shown through the 'freak' accidents they cause against those who appear to be placing stumbling blocks in the path of their ultimate plan. I loved the hallucinatory effect of their spells against Commissioner Fontaine, for example, and in this scene, the casual manner in which Roman carries out the spell is an excellent touch. I did think the violence was a little gratuitous, however, and it made the deaths all seem very odd instead of strange-but-not-strange-enough-to-make-it-obvious to the main players that something untoward was going on.

I mentioned in my review of the book that it was a bit of feminist novel for its time, bemoaning the lack of control women had over their own bodies. I enjoyed Zoe's Rosemary argue with everyone around her about her bodily autonomy and right to choice, but the film did not make the control the coven had over her feel as dire as it could have been. Perhaps it is because most people nowadays know the basics of Rosemary's story - it has become a pop culture icon - that her situation simply isn't a surprise. It doesn't help either that revelations as to what Rosemary is in for are suggested right from the beginning of the film and thus the subtle scariness, the mystery, of the story is lost, even for those who have never read the book or seen the original film.

I know that technically this version of 'Rosemary's Baby' is a remake, but I haven't seen the original so I cannot comment on how good it is compared to that (yet). All I can say is that I enjoyed most of the changes from the book but found that there was a lot less mystery for the viewer than there was for the reader, making the story a strict horror instead of a thrilling ride.

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