11
Nov
12

Possession (1981)

I’ve seen a lot of crazy movies in my day: Pink FlamingosEraserhead, Zardoz, Dead Ringers, Blood Freak, anything by Jodorowsky, and many others. But nothing in the entire world of film could have prepared me for Andrzej Żuławski’s Possession.

My first (and before Possession, only) exposure to Żuławski was the incomplete and controversial On the Silver GlobeI didn’t have the tenacity to finish it, and while I pretty much hated it, I still found it intriguing. You can tell the two were made by the same guy – both films offer a good dose of philosophy and hysteria, and both have a cast of characters that are completely unhinged

Sam Neill (who I normally cannot fucking stand) plays Mark, recently returned to his home and family in West Berlin after completing some sort of secret assignment. He and his wife, Anna (Isabelle Adjani) are having marital troubles, to say the least. She wants to leave him, but insists this isn’t because of another man. Mark becomes obsessive in his pursuit of the real reason why his wife has lost interest, and soon discovers Anna is indeed having an affair with an absurdly intense man named Heinrich. Caught in the middle is Anna & Mark’s son, Bob, easily the most level-headed character in the film, often left home alone smearing jelly on his face.

Crazy No. 1

Ok, so  on the surface the movie’s about the disintegration of a marriage. Just so happens Żuławski’s own marriage had also fallen apart, but holy hell I hope this isn’t autobiographical. The movie starts off almost on an even keel, but soon enough everything: the scenery, the characters, the plot – descends into absolute madness. Mark becomes so obsessive that when he’s not rocking ominously in the family’s rocking chair he’s hiring private detectives to snoop after his wife. Mark’s craziness is nothing compared to Anna’s madness, which culminates in a subway freakout miscarriage where she oozes pus and blood from just about every orifice in her body. After watching that scene, which left me fucking speechless, it doesn’t take much to understand why Adjani won best actress award at Cannes for this role.

Crazy No. 2

I don’t think it is possible to describe in words how this movie made me feel. It was appalling, enthralling, frenetic, frightening, hysterical. It goes places you can’t possibly imagine. You don’t watch Possession; the act is not passive. You experience this shit. If you don’t find this movie disturbing, it’s likely you’re sociopathic. This is at the same time the quintessential horror movie and not a horror movie at all. It’s so disgusting it made me gag, but I couldn’t entirely turn my eyes away from the screen. Just when you think it can’t get any more bananas, Żuławski laughs in your face! Tom Six (of The Human Centipede fame) thinks he knows how to disturb an audience? That guy’s got nothing on Żuławski.

For the record, I am intentionally leaving out some important plot points. I knew virtually nothing about this film when I walked in the theater and I think that had something to do with my having to pick my jaw up off the floor when the closing credits rolled. In a way I hate writing so much about it; I’d hate to think of my description as overblown and have anyone come back disappointed after having seen this movie, but I really don’t think that’s possible. Part of me wants to watch this movie a million times, the rest of me wants to forget it exists. It’s no accident so many people couple this with Von Trier’s Antichrist. But this is so much better, and so much more disturbing.

Also worth mentioning: I was lucky enough to see the full, unedited version in the theater. As far as I know there’s an edited version out there that cuts out nearly thirty minutes. I haven’t seen it, but if I had to guess I’d say don’t bother – wait ’til you can get your hands on the full version. It’ll be worth it. Promise.

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