Directed by Andrzej Zulawski
Starring Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neill.
A man returns after working away for an extended period of time to find his wife wants a divorce. She won’t say why, and he is determined to find out the truth. So he has her followed. But as he learns more, strange behaviours and bizarre incidents indicate something more than a possessed love affair.
What the hell. It may have been slightly more colourful than that, but that is the feeling I was left with having just finished this 1981 horror/drama. I’m not sure what went on, or if I ever will be. All I do know is that I’m still thinking about it.
You really should watch this knowing as little as possible going in, so I’ll attempt to steer clear of as much as I can. Suffice to say however whatever you think you know about this film won’t prepare for actually watching it.
In the midst of a messy divorce himself, the influence on writer-director Zulawski is plain to see, as he shows us in the most visceral way the devastating effect a divorce can have on a family. Fraught, messy arguments and histrionics mixed with violence led to an uncomfortable viewing experience, as though I was in the room myself. With both parties seemingly going off the deep end, I was left to pity their poor son caught in the middle.
A pre-Dr Grant Sam Neill gives a commanding performance, inducing derision, sympathy and pity as he struggles to control a world that is collapsing around him. He wants to know the truth, but the deeper down the rabbit hole he goes, the worse things get for him.
The real stand out however is Isabelle Adjani as Anna, whose manic behaviour required true commitment to the role. She literally throws herself into it, with transitions from hysteria to coldness unnervingly frightening. Though clearly beautiful, with piercing blue eyes and a flawless complexion, her performance is devoid of ego; several scenes have her in a state that many an actress would not even attempt.
Look out for egotistical kung-fu new age man Heinrich, as well as a Private Detective who couldn’t be less private if he tried. This world is populated with strange personalities, and we aren’t always privy to what their intentions are.
Special mention must be made of Carlo Rambaldi, best known for his work on E.T. and Alien. Rambaldi once had to go to court to prove that a director hadn’t hurt real animals such was the quality of his work, and he does a similarly fine job here.
This is not an easy film to watch, or to quantify. There is so much going on that many people (including myself), will just be thoroughly confused by it. It clearly has something to say, but what? Is it a look at the fragility of relationships and the emptiness felt when one person just doesn’t want to be there anymore? Is the frequently spied Berlin Wall a literal image of the divide within the family? I don’t know. But I was captivated throughout.
I rarely watch films that haven’t been in a multiplex, but I found this step outside of my comfort zone worthwhile. Maybe I’m not appreciative enough of what is the film is trying to say, but if you are at all intrigued then I suggest you take a step too.
Flickering Myth Rating: Film ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★
Possession is available to watch on Netflix US now.