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The Tenant Reviews

Roman Polanski's psychological horror film stars Polanski himself as Trelkovsky, a Polish office clerk in Paris. He rents an apartment in a quiet building whose elderly residents seem to feel malevolence toward the new tenant from the start. After he learns that the previous occupant jumped from the apartment window, he visits the dying woman--who is covered head to toe in wrappings--in the hospital, and meets her friend Stella (Isabelle Adjani). The woman suddenly lets out a bloodcurdling scream and dies, an event that forms a bond between Trelkovsky and Stella, who nearly become lovers but drift apart. Meanwhile, Trelkovsky, while experiencing increasing difficulty with his fellow tenants--they complain that he makes noise (though we don't see or hear anything) and threaten to "take steps"--grows steadily more obsessed with uncovering the mystery of the deceased woman and her fate and becomes positive his neighbors are trying to kill him. As the film progresses, however, his paranoia seems less and less justified, and his actions more and more insane. In many ways, THE TENANT is Polanski's REPULSION (1965) with the director in the Catherine Deneuve role. In both films, a character's vision of the world clashes with "reality" to the point that no sense can be made of either, and in both the conflict leads to violence. We are never really sure that there isn't a plot against Polanski, even though logic suggests he is imagining everything, and this uneasy sense that maybe Polanski's character is right makes the film extremely, scarily effective (it is also surprisingly funny). Technically, THE TENANT is superb, with stunning camerawork by Sven Nykvist, an eerie score by Philippe Sarde, and thoroughly convincing performances from the entire cast.