Sometimes it can feel like a book and its film adaptation are singing from different hymn sheets (which isn’t always necessarily a bad thing), but with Rosemary’s Baby, writer-director Roman Polanski clearly respected and shared Ira Levin’s original vision. Indeed, it is perhaps one of the most faithful page to screen conversions I’ve yet seen, in terms of both plot and tone.
As with the novel, I found Rosemary entirely endearing as a heroine, and loved her narrative arc; descending from a charming everywoman of the 60s to a determined mother, desperate to save her child – and her own sanity. She carries the entire thing, made possible by Mia Farrow’s strong performance and enigmatic screen presence, which mean we are with her every step of the way. Amidst the rest of the cast, Ruth Gordon also stood out as a highlight, putting in a great turn as the unnervingly eccentric Minnie Castevet.
I was thrilled they kept the horror very much on the psychological side of things, never resorting to jump scares or cheap gore, and focussing instead on a feeling of claustrophobia closing in on Rosemary. It’s testament to how well tension can be built, and how quietly affecting a story can be, when the focus is put firmly on the mental wellbeing of our protagonist; when the true horror is left to the power of our imagination.
It’s understandable why the film has become a classic of its genre, and why it pleases both committed cinemagoers and avid fans of the book alike.