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The tenant. Reality's madness and the reality of madness

As in the sight of a work of art, the evident futility of any word which dares trying to define an astonishing product leaves room to a pensive silence, in the contemplation of the deep soul that belongs to the creature in front of us. So it happens when, facing the flowing frames of an extremely lively piece, we remain speechless to see the obsessively meticulous care the director puts into sculpting all of the little details in every scene, giving birth to something that stops being just a movie and asserts itself as art in 360 degrees.

Therefore, a cinematographic product that complies with this canon has to be discussed as a whole, even when this means revealing the story that, especially in this case, represents the living material of the film. The work taken under consideration dates back to 1976 and stages Roland Topor’s novel, “Le Locataire Chimérique”, through the art and poetry of Roman Polanski, director and actor of the film. The course of events has its origin – or at least that is what the director makes us believe at the beginning of the film – in the moment Trelkowski, a humble office worker looking for a flat in Paris, finds the right place to settle in a condominium populated by not very hospitable people. The apartment, still full of the previous tenant’s belongings, had been hosting a woman called Simone Choule, who committed suicide jumping from the apartment window and is spending her last hours in hospital. Trelkowski is upset about the story and goes to visit the woman who, covered in bandages like a mummy, at the sight of the man, as if she knew him, desperately screams.

During the visit, Trelkoski meets a friend of Simone who, as the only benevolent character, will support him throughout the whole film. The girl Stella is, in fact, the only shelter for Trelkowski, who will soon be caught up in an escalation of madness, enlivened by a perfect mixture of psychological pressure, coming from the neighbours and his own persecution complex. At this point, Polanski shows his mind-blowing ability to measure perfectly every single element, building up a perfect machinery. Especially on the psychological side, it can be noticed how it seems like the external influences and the internal breakdown of the main character are always balanced: from the beginning, Trelkowski appears as a peaceful man - almost excessively peaceful – who remains seraphic and condescending even towards the most suffocating and inappropriate pressure. However, as time passes by, the man’s attitude changes, he feels that his life is threatened by the residents, who are trying to lead him to suicide as they did with Simone Choule.

Thus, at first the spectator perceive the neighbours as terribly asphyxiating and truly threatening, but after Trelkowski’s mental breakdown and a “plateau” phase, nothing is certain to the public and doubt worms its way about whether the threat that the man perceive is real or it is just the expression of his madness. In fact, as the minutes go by leaving the action of side characters in the background, more space is given to the psychological and inward examination of the main character, who simmers in the threat of craziness, expressing all his agony in a tragically ironic way. The atmosphere, which becomes more and more unbearably claustrophobic, is created through ingenious tricks made up by the director, who artfully creates a walking nightmare with, for instance, the endless clicking of alarm clocks, leaky faucets, and any object found in the room where the man stands. As if the fault of being too noisy attributed to him by his tenants, was really persecuting him. Another artifice that delights the public is the occasionally theatrical scenery, as for the drawn seat or the theatre set up in the courtyard of the building.

Dulcis in fundo, the most breath-taking aspect of the film is the ending – or non-ending: Trelkowski, exhausted and dissociated from himself, unable to separate himself from his alter ego inspired by Simone Choule, jumps twice from his flat window. Once in hospital, he opens his eyes, sees himself and, while the spectator sees the same scene seen at the beginning of the film, Simone or Trelkowski – at this point nobody really knows -, lets out the same yell of the first minutes of the artwork, caught up in a never-ending cycle of sorrow.

Articolo a cura di: Miriam Stillitano

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