Wednesday, 12 January 2011

The Tenant

Trelkovsky rents an apartment in Paris which belonged to a tenant who had committed suicide from the balcony. He goes to visit the previous tenant in hospital where he meets her friend Stella who he later falls in love with. After Simone the previous tenant dies he becomes paranoid and believes that the neighbours of the building are plotting against him to force him to commit suicide as he becomes more and more obsessed with the previous tenant.

The Tenant is a view on Trelkovsky’s descent into madness and his loss of identity which is horrifying fear which the film deals with. Polanski reveals to the audience many instances of hallucinatory imagery which in turn doesn’t make a lot of sense therefore we empathise with the character as we fall into a similar feeling of madness. One account of this in particular is when Trelkovsky looks out of his window to see a mummified person much like that of the previous tenant Choule unwrapping themselves in the shared toilet. Biodrowski takes note of this and writes “THE TENANT tries to bridge the gap between audience and character, using bizarre, surreal flourishes to put the viewer into the mind of the madman, such as a bouncing ball outside Trelkovsky’s that turns out to be a head. One particularly evocative and disturbing (if seemingly inexplicable) visual moment occurs when Trelkovsky looks through his apartment window (which gives him a good view of a window to the building’s communal restroom across the courtyard) and sees a nightmarish vision of someone in bandages as Simon Choule was, in the hospital slowly unwrapping them to reveal herself.” (Biodtowski, 2009)


The choice of casting himself as the lead character seems to hint at a connection with the character. Trelkovsky has a horrible view on the world around him in that everything and everyone is corrupt and damaging which could link to the views of Polanski himself. Polanski survived the horrors of concentration camps to where he lost his mother and he lost his wife and unborn child in an ordered killing by the Manson family. Thus in conjunction with Brayton’s review of the film he states “Frankly, it seems likely that Polanski legitimately believed that most people were murderous and cruel until proven otherwise.” (Brayton, 2007)

Towards the end of the film the descent of madness begins to shift between the ridiculous and the terrifying. Trelkovsky begins taking on the persona of Choule in where he visit’s a wig shop and purchases the first one he says and to the shock of the owners tries it on in front of them. He then continues on home to dress up as Choule in a tight black, floral printed dress with high heels on to which he comments on his look “ Beautiful. Adorable. Goddess. Divine. Divine! I think I’m pregnant.” It brings a hilarity to the film but when thought about it turns horribly disturbing as Trelkovsky descends into his madness and loses his identity to paranoia. Euker takes into account the jokey nature of the film and writes “In The Tenant, Polanski invites you to dwell on the absurdity of situations and appearances, and his straight-faced demeanor in doing so becomes part of the joke: you laugh at its gall, inappropriateness, and self-parody. When Trelkovsky purchases his wig, he buys the first one he sees, and creates considerable discomfort for the help by trying it on in the store. He uses binoculars to spy on the toilet, located down the hall, again and again. He goes out in public, dressed as himself, but still wearing a little forgotten lipstick.” (Euker, 2003)

The Tenant is a laughable but terrifying film in the audience witnessing the paranoid downfall of Trelkovsky as he believes that everyone is against him causing him to take on the persona of the previous tenant of his apartment and forcing himself into the same fate. There is an obvious connection with Polanksi and the character as they share the same feelings of alienation and the film was born from the painful experiences of this alienation and his distrust of people which makes it so crucial that he played the character himself.

Bibliography -

Steve Biodrowski, 11 December 2009, The Tenant Review

Tim Brayton, 6 May 2007, The Tenant Review

Jake Euker, 14 July 2003, The Tenant Review

Images -

Movie Poster -

Bouncing Head -

Trelkovsky -

Trelkovsky dressed as Choule -

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