In this series I will aim to discuss some of our key influences in greater depth and explain just what it is about these movies that have served as an inspiration on ONUS. Be that style, substance or just a general feeling, there’s something in these movies that has, in one way or another, served as a key inspiration on the film.
ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968) Dir. Roman Polanski
What makes Rosemary’s Baby such a successful horror is that even now, after all these years, it still emits a sense of dread from every frame. It is somehow both horrifying and yet totally captivating. Why is that?
Well, what always captivated me about Rosemary’s Baby was Rosemary herself. Or, more to the point, her descent into uncertain madness. As Rosemary edges along in her pregnancy, not only does her appearance begin to deteriorate but so too does her sanity. Basically, she starts to lose the plot. Or she thinks she does. It’s not totally clear. At least, not till the end anyway.
If you’ve seen Rosemary’s Baby then you know exactly what I’m talking about. As the film progresses a sense of the uncanny begins to seep through. Everything here is just a little off. We can’t quite place our finger on it, be it the neighbours across the hall to Rosemary’s husband, everything feels wrong. Why does the Doctor insist she doesn’t read any books? What’s in the drink she’s force fed each morning? Just what the hell is going on?
It’s this constant uncomfortable uncertainty that I wanted to capture with ONUS. Our lead finds herself in a position not wholly dissimilar to Rosemary’s and, while she’s not pregnant with the spawn of Satan, that never-ending notion that either the people around aren’t trustworthy or, more frighteningly, the problem lay with you was a key part of what I’ve tried to place into the script.
Rosemary’s slow descent into potential madness is exactly the kind of journey I wanted our lead character, Anna, to find herself in. Is she safe here? Are these people her friends or is there something more sinister going on? And, worse still, if nothing sinister is going on, what does that mean for my own sanity?
Anna, in many ways, is a character much like Rosemary. She begins the film kind, trusting and a little naive. She’s bound by social conventions of the time (Rosemary’s Baby delves quite heavily into the Gender Politics of the time, while ONUS deals more in the class struggle) and therefore feels trapped long before any real sense of threat or danger has emerged.
But as the film goes on the layers begin to peel back and we become less certain of everything we think we know. As an audience we’re on edge with our protagonist, we are lead through this tale with her. Rosemary is in nearly every scene of Rosemary’s Baby and so too Anna for ONUS. She is our eyes and ears and, as a result, when things really begin to get heavy they do for the audience too.
Mia Farrow’s exceptional performance was one I pointed Daniella Faircloth, who plays our Anna, in the direction of. Whether or not she watched the film I don’t know, but for me when I was writing it this film was almost invaluable. The perfect example of creeping dread and self-doubt. If we can’t trust ourselves then who can we trust?
That’s quite a frightening thought.
Rosemary is trapped throughout Rosemary’s Baby. She’s trapped both mentally, by either her own paranoia or the constant manipulation of outside factors, we’re unsure which, and physically by the social politics of late 60s America and the literal apartment she lives in. Anna too is trapped in a similar way, she is either mad or being gas-lighted and she is unable to do or say anything both because of who she is and where she is.
Hopefully that’s something we’ve succeeded in getting across on screen, and that’s why Rosemary’s Baby is one of the most important influences on our film.