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London on screen: the mansion block from ‘Repulsion’

By Thomas Hobbs

Taken from the first of Roman Polanski’s ‘apartment trilogy’, the exterior of this Kensington mansion block has barely changed in over 50 years. 

The location: Kensington Mansions, Earl’s Court.

The scene: Beautiful manicurist Carole (Catherine Deneuve) is pursued romantically by Colin (John Fraser), who offers to drive her back to her flat block. He’s unaware that Carole is suffering from androphobia, a pathological fear of men, and that trying to woo her could prove fatal.

Then (above): Director Roman Polanski needed a distinctive flat that echoed Carole’s claustrophobia. Built in 1890, Kensington Mansions had initially been home to middle-class families. According to architectural historian Edmund Bird, the area had become ‘down-at-heel’ by the time ‘Repulsion’ was filmed there in 1964 and ‘was known as “Kangaroo Valley” as so many young Australians and New Zealanders settled here in the ’60s’. The interiors of Carole’s flat were actually shot on a set in Twickenham.

Now: Despite the gentrification of the surrounding area, the block’s facade has barely changed in 54 years. It looks remarkably similar to the building where Carole (spoiler alert) stabs her perverted landlord. Polanski’s film is now viewed as a masterpiece, the first in his so-called ‘apartment trilogy’ (‘Rosemary’s Baby’ and ‘The Tenant’ were to follow).

For more of the city on screen, check out our list of the 30 best London movies.

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