The Tenant  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Tenant (French: Le Locataire) is a 1976 psychological thriller/horror film directed by Roman Polanski based upon the novel Le Locataire chimérique by Roland Topor. It is also known under the French title Le Locataire. It co-stars actress Isabelle Adjani and has a very small part for the still young Eva Ionesco as the disabled girl.


Plot synopsis

Trelkovsky (Polanski), a quiet and inconspicuous man, rents an apartment in France where the previous tenant committed suicide, and begins to suspect his landlord and neighbors are trying to subtly change him into the last tenant so that he too will kill himself.

Theories about the film

This film does not clearly say whether the main character is mad or not, contrary to the previous entries in Polanski's Apartment Trilogy. Therefore a lot of theories have been made about it.

  • From the presence of Egyptian symbols displayed in props in many scenes, a reincarnation theory could be derived : Trelkovsky and Simone are in reality the same person, which would explain the scene where Trelkovsky sees himself in his apartment. It follows, that that the scene where Trelkovsky stares at Simone is the very same scene, subject to a curious time warp. The bathroom represents a funeral chamber (as denoted by the hieroglyphs), which places Simone in this scene as a mummy, because of her appearance.
  • Trelkovsky is either a fictional character created by Simone, or a fantasy based upon the man visiting her at the hospital. Therefore most of the story line in the film is imaginary, except the first few scenes. Simone is schizophrenic and develops another personality in order to fulfill her homosexual desires upon her friend Stella.
  • Trelkovsky is merely hallucinating (this is suggested by the mise en scène).
  • Trelkovsky was driven insane by his neighbors (as he claims to Stella). He is schizophrenic and think he is Simone, which ultimately leads to his suicide.
  • The film is auto-biographical. Some potential proofs are : Polanski changing Trelkovsky's origins (in the book, he is of Russi extraction), the statements he made about how he used his experience to make the movie (the racist jokes, the cold neighbors).



  • The film shown in the theatre is Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon.
  • It is the last film in Polanski's Apartment Trilogy, following Repulsion and Rosemary's Baby.
  • The film has no end credits; only the Paramount logo.
  • In competition in Cannes film festival, 1976.
  • The album Bites by Skinny Puppy uses many samples from this film.
  • The song "Fritter (Stella's Home)" from Skinny Puppy's VIVIsectVI album also uses clips from this film.
  • The coffee shop scene in the beginning of the film is one of the only ones in movie history in which a couple is being shown sitting in a coffee shop while on the table lies used coffee cups from a prior time. Waiter is taking the dishes away as soon as the two sit down.
  • This film was #65 on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments.
  • Philippe Sarde (the composer) chose the glass harmonica after having seen Polanski, at the restaurant, mimicking with his finger the action making the glass sing. There were only one person left in the world that could play this instrument, for which Mozart wrote a few pieces.
  • Philippe Sarde made an appearance in the film, he plays the man disturbed by Trelkovsky and Stella at the theatre.
  • One of the ten most terrifying moments in history of cinema in the opinion of the French horror movie magazine Mad Movies.
  • This film is amongst the first ones to use the Louma, along with Spielberg's 1941, and Superman.
  • During an appearance on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, cult horror actor Bruce Campbell said this is his favorite horror film.

Memorable Quotes

Trelkovsky: These days, relationships with neighbors can be... quite complicated. You know, little things that get blown up out of all proportion? You know what I mean?

Stella's Friend: No, no I don't. I mind my own business.

Trelkovsky: I am not Simone Choule!

Trelkovsky: [talking to himself] [he opens a box and takes out a pair of shoes] Oh! My! Where did you find these? They are beautiful! A size 68? I had *no* idea!

Trelkovsky: You want me to do it again? I shall do it again! You did not like it the first time.

[shouts] Simone Choule does not disappoint!

Stella: Why don't you take your tie off? You look like you're choking to death.

Trelkovsky: I found a tooth in my apartment. It was in a hole.

Trelkovsky: If you cut off my head, what would I say... Me and my head, or me and my body? What right has my head to call itself me?

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Tenant" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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