A quiet man rents an apartment whose previous occupant committed
suicide, and he becomes increasingly paranoid about his neighbors.
The Tenant (1976)
Directed by Roman Polanski
Written by Roman Polanski and Gérard Brach
Starring Roman Polanski, Isabelle Adjani, Melvyn Douglas,
Jo Van Fleet, Shelley Winters, Bernard Fresson
Based on the novel by Roland Topor
I'm not entirely sure what The Tenant was supposed to be. A horror? A drama? A thriller? A satire? Who knows? Ultimately, what it was was just plain confusing. Roman Polanski delivered a fine performance and his direction was superb as always, but the film failed to deliver. It was all over the place and never landed on something definitive. It's an absolute mess, and it's only really a horror movie in the last half hour. The rest of the film is watching Trelkovsky (Polanski) rent an apartment and live amongst nosy neighbors who never keep to themselves.
Trelkovsky is our hero, a timid man who rents an apartment whose previous tenant killed herself. He becomes close with the victim's best friend, a girl named Stella (Isabelle Adjani), and becomes convinced that his douchey neighbors are trying to turn him into the girl who died so he'll kill himself next. It doesn't make any sense initially and it makes less sense the more you think about it. There were hints at something paranormal going on and we never learned what was up with the tooth in the wall, but I guess we're just supposed to accept that Trelkovsky was crazy the whole time. Again, that avenue just leaves too many loose ends, so I reiterate, who knows?
I really wanted The Tenant to be a horror masterpiece. I'd heard stories about it for years, and once I found out it was Bruce Campbell's favorite horror film, I knew I had to see it for myself. Quite frankly, I don't understand why critics fawn over this film. Just because it's got an auteur attached to it doesn't automatically make it a work of art. Artists make mistakes too, and not every film is gonna be pure gold. The Tenant is definitely one of Polanski's misfires.