Undoubtedly one of the most horrifying films I have ever seen, Polanski's "The Tenant" ranks as perhaps his overlooked masterpiece.
Polanski plays Monsieur Tarkovsky, a shy introvert (slightly neurotic) who wants nothing more than some meagre lodgings in a rather ugly, creepy apartment building. God knows why, but it sets up the framework for a really believable, chilling descent into madness.
Tarkovsky is consistently abused, harassed, and put down by both the absurdly stingy landlord (a hideous old man) and his neighbors. Not only that, it seems that everyone (or is this just his imagination?) sees striking similarities between him and the woman who jumped from the apartment room he is living in.
There are memorable scenes in which he is frantically offered her brand of cigarettes, coffee, etc. Perhaps Polanski wants us to see in Tarkovsky the male echo of the former tenant; perhaps the movie is a reminder of the power of suggestion. At any rate, it doesn't take long for Tarkovsky to reach breaking point.
Crossdressing (and having an utterly pointless, unbelievable affair with the woman's friend--someone was looped behind the camera), he hallucinates her figure in the apartments across from the building. He finds (or does he?) teeth in the walls, and an array of dresses he is quick to try on. His behavior becomes more and more irrational. He slaps a child who has a slit in his teeth resembling the woman, he asks to buy a gun at a bar, and at long last withdraws from his obnoxious and ridiculously 'American' friends into a world all his own. The ending is both predictable and unpredictable, and sometimes strikes one as funny, sometimes as awful.
What I don't understand is why more people aren't aware of this film, as it definitely one of the most powerful pieces of filmmaking I have ever seen. Aside from a few scattered absurd scenes, the entire thing is chillingly believable. I'm not surprised that Polanski himself played Tarkovsky.