Mark (Sam Neill) comes home from months on the road to find his flighty wife, Anna (Isabelle Adjani in an almost bug-eyed performance), ready to divorce him. Distraught and angry, he tracks down her lover, but discovers a ... more »secret unknown to either of the men. Anna has given birth, literally, to a demon lover (created by monster maker Carlos Rimbaldi), and she'll murder anyone who dares to come between them. Full of anger, jealousy, emotional suffering, and vindictiveness, this bizarre, bleak horror film is a mix of Hollywood melodrama, European psychodrama, and the raw, blunt emotions of personal art cinema. Mark and Anna grow increasingly shrill and erratic as they sink deeper into madness and obsession, and finally doppelgängers, also played by Neill and Adjani, arise to take their place. Hints of Rosemary's Baby, The Omen, and the biological horrors of David Cronenberg float through the story. The English-language French production was shot in Germany with a Polish director and an international cast, which only adds to the dissonance. Andrzej Zulawski (who claims that the film was inspired by his own divorce) directs this obscure and often alienating film with unrelenting intensity. The 2-hour film was cut down to 80 minutes for its original American release, and has only now been restored to full length. The DVD features commentary by Zulawski in conversation with his biographer, Dan Bird. --Sean Axmaker« less
A distorted look into the mirror of love-- a must!
Miguel Cane | Mexico City, Mexico | 06/26/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After many years of acquiring a cult status of mythical proportions, Zulawski's "Possession" finally comes to the viewers as it was originally supposed to be seen.This is not an easy movie to see or to understand -- and I suppose it neither was easy to write or film. The characters are severely neurotic and seem to thrive on their bizarre behaviour (in more ways than one) yet they are somehow all too human. Like the movie ultimately suggests (once you get to see the secret trick the movie plays on the two leads), this story may be like looking into a mirror, though dark and distorted.Meet Mark (Sam Neill), an overworked man with a mysterious job that takes him "to far away places". Meet his lovely wife, Anna (an overwhelmingly beautiful Isabelle Adjani), a sexually frustrated housewife and former ballet instructor who has much more than meets the eye going on for her.Between quarrels and reconciliations, these two share a nice apartment in a quiet and well-to-do district of Berlin and have a five year old son, Bob, but they also share a horror that no one could have suspected, and that will make all their fantasies and nightmares come true.After being brutally butchered by Vestron Video for its original release, "Possession" has been restored to its original lenght and sequence, therefore becoming coherent for the viewers who used to find it mind-numbingly strange.I think of it as a very unique piece of craftmanship, part Ingmar Bergman drama, part Polanski suspense thriller, part Dario Argento gore, part Kubrick satire, part Buñuel surrealism and still somehow, very much its own. The camera angles, the direction, the strange whims and seizures that seem to take over the characters (including one memorable and disturbing scene on a subway station with Adjani pulling all the stops not ontly to her acting abilities but to her physical strength too) are part of a very strange style Zulawski has to tell his story. If you are accustomed to standard horror fare, then probably you will dismiss this movie as pretentious eurotrash (something it has been labeled off as countless times) but if you're game and follow the sequences and let your imagination be ensnared this will be a convulsive ride to the depths of emotion where you won't emerge as the same person.And quite possibly, that's what all horror movies are really about at heart.As a footnote: Isabelle Adjani won a very deserved Gold Palm at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival for her dual role in this film that, no matter how much you loved it or hated it, is still unforgettable.The quality of the DVD in picture and sound is also of note."
Nothing like it in the whole world...
B. G. Shultz | Rockwall, TX USA | 04/26/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie is absolutely the strangest, most disturbing thing ever made with a camera. It is the story of a man and woman who are having marital problems. She has been cheating on him, at first with a human, then with a thing that is definitely not a human (at first anyway). Her second lover turns out to be some kind of tentacled thing that likes to make a little love and eat a little flesh. Once the husband finds out about this, it's all downhill from there. "Possession" is a very surreal, deeply symbolic movie that will simultaneously creep you out, play with your head, make you want to vomit, and kickstart your imagination. It's set in Berlin, which gives it a somber, eerie feel to begin with. Sam Neill and Isabel Adjani both deliver stunning performances (especially in the infamous subway scene, which you'll never ever forget). The ending is very unsettling and completely unclear, yet it somehow works. Be patient with this movie and it will teach you a thing or two about the nature of guilt and what repressed emotions can do to a person's soul. A very powerful movie that should never be viewed in its edited version. Thank you, Anchor Bay, for re-releasing this jewel in its entirety."
There's Much More Going One Here Than You Think
Sambson | North Carolina | 04/22/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Yeah, Possession. The First time I saw this film I was catatonic by the end. Three friends and I talked about it so much we got 4 new friends to watch it with us again. We continued marveling over it and watched it yet again on the third night (ten people this time). Why? Because this isn't really a horror film. Yeah, there's a "monster", but only in America would this get relegated to the "Horror" genre. Because here, we usually make films to fit in a box, follow a formula or entertain; whereas this one seems to be about catharsis for the director.
Several years ago there was an amazing fan site to this man's work (which doesn't seem to exist anymore) that went into infinite detail about his films and personal life. Suffice to say, there's much more going on here than you think.
During 1970's and 80's Poland, all films were approved by the Polish film commission and Zulawski's second film "Diabel" (1975) was banned. Made in Polish, it was essentially cut off from it's only possible audience. He took a trip to France, made his 3rd film and returned to his homeland to do the 4th. After two years work the authorities would not allow him to finish it. Since then he has lived and created successfully in France.
"Possession" is the first film he made immediately following the second incident in Poland; just as his marriage was dissolving, and is better described as 3 films in 1. The first part is a drama centered around a couple who's marriage is falling apart. As the discord escalates, it becomes a horror film with some scenes potentially taking place only in the psyche of the wife. The finale is an action film that drives the frenzied pace even higher through chase sequences.
Other confusions seem to stem from many lines of dialog (especially in exchanges between Hans and Sam Neil) that may be interpreted as critique of Zulawski's treatment by the government of Poland. Consequently some exchanges leave viewers perplexed, as characters words don't appear to have any bearing on the scene at hand. The mysterious "agents" that pop up from time to time, simply create the social context the director must've felt as a persecuted artist. And as for the doppelgangers... I like to think they are the plastic versions of each character that the government or society's values would have them become.
In many ways this film is an examination of the internal landscape of Zulawski at that moment; divorced from his wife and exiled by his beloved homeland. The high drama of these characters has the actors screamingly portraying every pent-up emotion Zulawski felt about his marriage, and wasn't allowed to say to his fellow countrymen about their homeland. I love this film. I love every gut wrenching, hysterical, chaotic minute of it. Viva Zulawski."
Man oh man oh man......
Steev Proteus | nowhere in particular | 11/22/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was thrilled to find so many references to Polanski and Cronenberg among the reviews for this film. It does indeed combine the dark suspense and ironic humor of ROSEMARY'S BABY, the biological horror and familial disintegration of THE BROOD, and the unabashed histrionics and directorial flamboyance of Ken Russell's THE DEVILS. With themes of marital strife, familial disintegration, and psychological breakdown harking back to the former two and the in-your-face grotesquerie and visceral drama reminding the viewer of the latter two, little-known but acclaimed Polish filmmaker Andrzej Zulawski tells the story of Anna (Isabelle Adjani, in the performance of a lifetime) and Mark (Sam Neill), she a bored housewife and he an overworked... something (the film never makes clear his occupation). They share an apartment in an empty, run-down Berlin with their young son. After completing an important job of some kind, Mark comes home to his family to find things changed. He drags the truth from Anna that she has been having an affair. She insists she cannot stay with him, and leaves Mark with the child, apparently to shack up with her lover. Mark tracks down the lover, a real weirdo named Heinz (Heinrich Bennent), but after insults and fisticuffs, Heinz insists he has not seen Anna in quite a while. Mark, perplexed, hires a detective to follow her from their apartment after one of her sporadic visits, which always end in chaos. The detective manages to get in and... something really strange happens. I know what that something is, having seen the picture, but on the off-chance you haven't read the other (spoiler-inundated) reviews, I'll keep it secret. Instead I'll talk about the photography, which goes a long way toward mirroring the absolutely unhinged performances, and the set design, which provides a cool counterpoint to the feverish tenor of the film's action and dialogue. It obviously isn't going to be for everybody, and in fact some will doubtless find it repellent. Writing the film was obviously therapeutic for Zulawski (who, like Cronenberg when writing THE BROOD, was going through a nasty divorce). A friend of mine said he was more sickened by the scenes of emotional anguish than by any of the film's often-stomach-churning special effects. Just keep two things in mind: firstly, this isn't your typical "horror flick", therefore the splatterpunk/gorehound set should stay away; and secondly, this one is playing for keeps: though laced with a bitter humor, there are no light moments here AT ALL, and this should not be watched by couples on a first date, or any couple whose relationship is not secure. Also, keep impressionable children away from it. I was very impressed with what I thought would be just another dreary, over-hyped horror film and turned out to be a genuine classic (at least as far as I'm concerned). Watch POSSESSION if you like Polanski's horror films, Cronenberg's more dramatic outings, or any of Ken Russell's stuff. SCENE OF NOTE: Adjani going ABSOLUTELY NUTS and having a miscarriage (or going into labour...?) in a subway station for what seems like an eternity."
What more can I say?
Andrew V. Jeffery | Seattle, WA | 07/13/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"You either love this film or you hate it. I write this review mostly to add five more stars to the ratings this film has recieved. There is not much more I can add to what the others have said. This film is a unique experience. By American standards, all the performances are grotesquely over-acted, but if this is pretentious, then I say bring on the pretense! Isabelle Adjani is wonderful to watch even in the calmer moments, and when she moves into High Historionics she is utterly unlike anything you have ever seen (and much more impressive than the monster). The film is not light entertainment, but deep catharsis, intended slap the viewer into satori, the Dionysian dream of an Apollonian chorus. Since viewing it, I have searched for anything by Zulawski I could get my hands on, and it has not been easy to find much. This is his only film in English, and much of his work has never even been released with English subtitles, much less in American formats. (Perhaps after the mutilation Possession recieved at the hands of Vestron, Zulawski did not want to release more of his films in the United States?)"