This film is the final and often forgotten about entry in Polanski’s Apartment Trilogy (following “Repulsion” and “Rosemary’s Baby”). The apartment trilogy is not being a conventional trilogy with a continuing storyline, instead the films center round similar themes of claustrophobia, sexual repression, paranoia and slow descent into madness. These are themes around which Polanski has built a career.
“Filthy little brat!”
When looking for an apartment to rent in Paris, Trelkovsky (Polanski, “The Fearless Vampire Killers”) wanders into a tall, narrow, gothic building where there is a room for rent on one of the upper floors. The vacancy is good news for Trelkovsky, but the reason for the opening, he soon learns, is because the previous tenant threw herself out the window (when touring the room he peers curiously out the window and sees the exact spot where she fell). Before moving in, Trelkovsky meets a curmudgeonly old neighbor (Melvyn Douglas, ”Being There” ) who complains about the woman who’d committed suicide, and all the racket she made. Trelkovsky reassures the man that he’s a quiet bachelor; the neighbor retorts, “Bachelors can be a problem, too.”
So begins the standoff.
One night, soon after moving in, Trelkovsky has a few friends over for a housewarming party, including a young woman named Stella (Isabelle Adjani, “Possession”). They drink, put on a few records, and talk quietly amongst themselves, but apparently, not quietly enough, for soon the neighbors are rapping on the door and calling for the music to be shut off and his friends to leave. Desperate to make a good impression, Trelkovsky decides he’ll keep to himself when he’s home, so as to make as little noise as possible, but in doing so he retreats into isolation. Paranoia sets in. Was there someone watching him from the dark apartment across the road? Is there someone waiting in the stairway outside his door? Who were the people wandering down in the shadows of the street? Is he being too loud as he walks about? Are his neighbors in on some malevolent plot together? What really happened to the woman who lived in the apartment before him?