|Fig. 1 The Tenant poster.|
The Tenant is a stirring neurotic thriller about the main character, Trelkovsky, moving into a sinister new apartment. He gradually descends into madness, believing that his neighbours are trying to turn him into the previous tenant who tried to kill herself by jumping from its window.
|Fig 2. Trelkovsky's apartment.|
There are many aspects of this film that make it so unsettling to the audience, one of which is the environment. His home made unhomely and unsafe. The apartment itself is very small, consisting of only two rooms with no bathroom and one large ominous window. Halina Stephan stated that "The environment seems even more ominous from the perspective of the film's viewers, who have seen, during the opening credits, an image of a woman standing at an apartment window which dissolves into an image of Trelkovsky standing at the same window...It is hard to understand this opening as anything other than a foreshadowing of Trelkovsky's own suicide" (Stephan, 2003:290). The opening credits are very effective in indicating to the audience that these apartments are hiding things behind their many windows, things that will later work their way into defenceless Trelkovsky and lead to him losing his grasp on reality. The window is incredibly foreboding due to its dominance over the tiny room he lives in, thus creating an unsettling atmosphere in what should be the character's home and his place of rest. Katarzyna Marciniak observed that "the apartment itself is not a static place of comfort that we might associate with the idea of home; in an eerie way, it becomes an almost living organism that envelops, tortures, and consumes the protagonist" (Marciniak, 2006:103) This is supported by the looming window and by the claustrophobic atmosphere within many of the scenes, whether they're located in his tiny apartment, as in Figure 2, or elsewhere in his apartment building.
|Fig 3. Trelkovsky trapped in shadow.|
|Fig. 4 Trelkovsky becoming the previous tenant.|
|Fig. 5 Trelkovsky beginning to lose his mind.|
Though it is the culmination of his restraint from identifying himself combined with a little 'cabin fever' from his confined apartment that the audience sees as breaking him mentally there are other elements that added to the deterioration of his sanity. Throughout the narrative the audience is shown the neighbours from Trelkovsky's point of view, and because of this they see them as highly strung and overly sensitive to the actions of other tenants. This leads to their inquiry into Trelkovsky and his apparent disruptive behaviour. Due to the audience following his point of view they know when he was not in his apartment, but there were times tenants complainted of noise when it could not have been him that made it. Richardson explained that "in The Tenant, the conspiracy against trelkovsky is on the part of the other tenants, if it isn't a construction of Trelkovsky's mind." (Richardson, 2006:147) The audience are lead to believe that the tenants are conspiring against Trelkovsky because they never side with him, even when something clearly was not his fault. Therefore, when he finally does lose his mind the audience becomes unsure as to whether there was ever a conspiracy at all, or whether his paranoia and alienation lead to this assumption. The Tenant's climactic ending consists of Trelkvosky becoming so consumed by his new identity that he even follows the previous tenant's suicide attempt. Jason Horsley explained this as"Trelkovsky, a meek, timid, cowardly man who passively submits to the hostile forces of his life until he is reduced to a twisted caricature of himself, a broken doll." (Horsley, 2009:137) He becomes very much a broken doll as he lays motionless on the ground after his jump from the window. With rouged lips and nails, a pale complexion, floral dress and large black heeled shoes he lays still, twisted and broken, thrown away like an unwanted doll. A victim of persecution from his neighbours or from his own neuroses, the audience will never be sure but the image they are left with is certainly disturbing.
List of Illustrations
Figure 1. The Tenant (1976) The Tenant poster. At: http://filmicability.blogspot.com/2010/08/my-movie-poster-collection-t.html (Accessed on: 08.12.10)
Figure 2. The Tenant (1976) Trelkovsky's apartment. At: http://img.youtube.com/vi/acVTOXnkYEE/0.jpg
(Accessed on: 08.12.10)
Figure 3. The Tenant (1976) Trelkovsky trapped in shadow. At: http://storage.canalblog.com/52/03/110219/57649142.jpg (Accessed on: 08.12.10)
Figure 4. The Tenant (1976) Trelkovsky becoming the previous tenant. At: (1976)http://www.pratt.edu/academics/art_design/art_ug/film_video_photography/pratt_film/ (Accessed on: 09.12.10)
Figure 5. The Tenant (1976) Trelkovsky beginning to lose his mind. At: http://www.304biztips.com/index.php?key=tenant (Accessed on: 09.12.10)
Horsley, Jason (2009) The secret life of movies: schizophrenic and shamanic journeys in American Cinema. North Carolina: MacFarland & Company, Inc.
Marciniak, Katarzyna (2006) Alienhood: citizenship, exile, and the logic of difference. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press
Richardson, Michael (2006) Surrealism and cinema. Oxford: Berg
Stephan, Halina (2003) Living in translation: Polish writers in America. The Netherlands: Rodolpi