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27th Sep 10
Mark returns home to find that things are not quite as he left them. For starters his wife Anna has been keeping busy in the bedroom department with not just one but TWO lovers and that's not at all; one of them has tentacles...
Review Possession is a complete mind-fuck of a movie, a full-on assault of your senses and one that just has to be seen to be believed. Not since first seeing Gaspar Noe's Irreversible in 2002 has a film had such an impact on this reviewer. Both are unconventional and unsettle and disturb you leaving you gasping, with food for thought. Both are beyond mere celluloid and are closer to works of art to be studied and scrutinised for years to come. This is arthouse horror at its best and deserving of its growing cult reputation. It will also continue to divide opinion as it did do at its initial Cannes Screening. There's no in-between here, you will either like it lots or loathe it.
For close to two hours there's plenty of screaming and some sloppy, gory moments that often come out of the blue. It leaves you feeling bruised from such brutal, raw and exposed emotions. You've never seen anyone get as full a use out of a rocking chair as Sam Neill's character Mark does. It's almost farcical to watch however the drama unfolding is too full-on for you to stop and laugh no matter how over-the-top things get at times.
The stunning Isabelle Adjani is outstanding, a real tour-de-force as both Anna and Helen. In fact it's difficult to recall any female actor who gives themselves so fully to a role. She deservedly won the Best Actress at that year's Cannes Film Festival (for both this and Quartet) as well as at the French Cesars. Sam Neill matches Adjani completely and often gets overlooked in the praise lavished on this film. He's all pent up rage for the first half of the movie and goes places that many actors wouldn't dare.
Following his self-imposed exile from Poland director Andrzej Zulawski came up with the idea for Possession whilst dealing with a stressful divorce. If the situations acted out between Adjani and Neill in the movie are any reflection of that - boy, do you NEVER wanna get divorced! The bitterness in Zulawski's writing is never more apparent than in the character of the second (human) lover Heinrich (Heinz Bennent); a manifestation of all the qualities the director disliked in a person. He's wildly flamboyant, theatrical to the point you'd consider him a queen rather than a man capable of wanting to make love to a woman.
Zulawski doesn't lose sight of the fact that as fractured as the central relationship is we are constantly reminded that the country Mark and Helen are living in, Germany, is too is split in this case by the Berlin Wall (the film was released seven years prior to its coming down). The Wall can be viewed from their apartment and from where people with binoculars look back. It's indicative of the many layers of which the director's film has reminding you that nothing here is to be taken just at face value but to be analysed and dissected too.
Special effects artist Carlo Rambaldi created the tentacled beastie/lover in a very short time and with little money at his disposal; a complete contrast to the weeks and weeks he had at his disposal (plus far more money!) than he did on Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Rambaldi's results are quite stunning considering and the tentacles beastie still looks good now although at the time the producers thought it looked like a giant condom.
The main talking point when it comes to viewing Possession is the scene in the subway featuring Adjani. It's stunning, brilliantly acted and entirely unexpected. At the start of the scene she appears deliriously happy and a tad unhinged before grunting, screaming, throwing both herself and her shopping around before...well, you'll see. There's no spoonfeeding here the viewer is left to decide just what the fuck is going on till its finally revealed in quite the most gross fashion.
Although it received a theatrical release in the UK it was later banned upon its retail release as a 'Video Nasty' and heavily cut for its US release (down to ninety-seven minutes from its original one hundred and eighteen minutes). A film this unique is difficult to pigeon-hole and subsequently it was missold on its release as an out-and-out horror movie leading to its subsequent failure at the box office.
Possession may not make any sense but it damn sure grips and runs the gamut of emotions in a way that makes other flicks feel anaemic. It may disturb - you may consider it trash, but it's undeniably powerful stuff and deserves to be viewed nonetheless. In a world where the majority of films produced are all relatively safe and formulaic Possession shows that cinema can also be about art and about being unconventional and about provoking debate.