Tenant (1976): Polanski's Creepy Thriller

A creepy psychological thriller, “The Tenant” is one of Roman Polanski’s most underestimated pictures. Based on “Le Locataire Chimerique,” a novel by Roland Topor, the tale, co-penned by Gérard Brach, Polanski, and Roland Topor, centers on Trelkovsky (Polanski), a mysterious tenant who rents an apartment in a spooky old residential building.

Initially, his neighbors, who are all strange or recluses, treat him with suspicious contempt. Upon discovering that the apartment’s previous tenant, a beautiful young woman, jumped from the window in a suicide attempt, Trelkovsky begins an obsessissive interrogation into the life of the dead woman.

True to form, this noir thriller deals with paranoia, and, indeed, soon Trelkovsky convinces himself that his neighbors plan to kill him. He even comes to the conclusion that Stella (Isabel Adjani), the woman he has fallen in love with, is in on the “plot.”

Ultimately, Polanski assumes the identity of the suicide victim, and inherits her self-destructive urges.

Upon initial release, the movie divided critics. Some found it too tedious and horrif. Others (including this writer) see it as a companion piece to Polanski’s earlier masterpiece, Repulsion, starring Catherine Deneuve.