At the peak of the Cold War, a man comes back from a mission to reunite with his family only to find out that their marriage has fallen apart and an eerie entity might be behind it.
Possession is the art of writing, directing, editing, and acting with no rules. No. Rules. It’s been at least a couple of decades since I last time watched it and the first time, not knowing how to properly “read” a film, I just found it bizarre and moved on with my life. Now that I know a bit more, I can tell you with certainty that no review or analysis can be adequate to make one understand with certainty how, what, or why everything is happening. In addition, there is no way to predict who will like it and who won’t. Personally, I couldn’t recommend this film more to horror / mystery / thriller fans but also cinephiles with whatever particular interest they have in films. If you decide to watch it, here’s what you sign up for:
- Sam Neill’s and Isabelle Adjani’s best-ever performances. Theatrical, verbal, and non-verbal performances like anything they had delivered before and anything like they ever attempted again to this very day, almost 40 years later.
- Andrzej Zulawski’s most intricate script. Where did Mark come back from? What is he so good at? What is happening to Anna? Why does Helen look like…(no spoilers)? Why does everyone speak and act in such a way? Are their responses somehow related to “the thing”? Where did that thing come from? The fear. The possession. The siren… Zulawski defied rules and conventions, making an unprecedented, satisfying, yet questionable horror, heavily censored in the US and banned in the UK.
- Zulawski’s directing which haunted both Neill and Adjani, taking them years to shake off the extremely unpleasant experience they were put through. Reportedly, Adjani stated: “He [Zulawski] is a director that makes you sink into his world of darkness and his demons”. His lens is captivating and the photography mesmerising throughout all three acts.
- Editing-wise, Possession becomes the Bible of when not to cut! The pace and rhythm are remarkable and as this is a performance-driven film, the editing is patient enough to move on to the next shot only after Neill and Adjani have given their 100% or more!
Think of Possession as The Last Tango in Paris (1972) meets Kramer vs Kramer (1979) meets The Thing (1982). And that’s what I’m going to leave you with. For readers who have watched it, if you want to, please read further.
I cannot even begin to imagine the reactions to the introduction of hentai pornography in a live-action film, in the early 80s, in the Western civilisation. If you know any European, (North or South) American, African or Australian films including hentai tentacles prior to Possession please let me know in the comments. I believe that awe and shock don’t even come close to describing the majority’s feelings. Personally, I think that the concoction of feelings and emotions throughout the film does not fall under one category. To the point where, possibly, you won’t even be able to explain how you feel or why you react the way you do to certain stimuli. A daring cinematic experience!
3 thoughts on “Possession (1981): Drama / Horror”
I actually think I’ve missed this one so I will definitely give it a go. Thank you.
Great film. That’s horrifying, disturbing and intelligent. Great performances.
Totally agree. A forgotten masterpiece!