Roman Polanski polarizes opinion about his life and his movies. I'm a fan because he has a great body of work including Rosemary's Baby, Repulsion, Chinatown (one of my all time favorites), Tess, the recent Ghost Writer, The Pianist and this movie which sits in the top 1000 of all time? Two years after completing "Chinatown", Polanksi was back in Paris to direct and star in "The Tenant", a psychological thriller that maybe one of the greatest portrayals of isolated madness.
The film begins with an homage to two Hitchcock classics, most obviously, "Rear Window" but also the opening shot of "Psycho". The director instantly creates a character out of the apartment block where Trelkovsky will live. This little man finds his apartment and immediately discovers (courtesy of Shelley Winters) that the previous tenant jumped out of the window and is in hospital. Nobody will explain why.
Trelkovsky starts out as intelligent and shy but quite normal. Over the next 120 minutes he will descend into madness. I won't say more.
Polanski the actor is simply perfect as the creepy Tenant and his change through the film is managed beautifully. I really believed in the character and his plight. Polanski the director steadily builds tension and suspense as we know something is wrong but are not quite sure what. The pacing of the movie is critical, though some might find it slow. He is well supported by no less than Ingmar Bergman's cinematographer.
Many of us have lived alone in small apartments. They can be soul destroying and isolating places. I am struggling to remember a film that better captures the sense of isolation and detachment, almost claustrophobia. Trelkovsky's world collapses in on him to the point where everything is about him.
Note - I do wish Isabelle Adjani had more screen time. I fell in love with her in the early eighties. Check out Subway, Possession and L'Ete Meurtrier - avoid Ishtar!
There's something very David Lynch in this film. Very strongly recommended