For Reel

Possession (1981)
June 30, 2012, 7:40 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Andrzej Zulawski

With a nihilism towards marital unions that would make even Lars von Trier blush, Andrzej Zulawski’s Possession is an unrelenting assault, so deliriously excessive that one is left feeling maniacal themselves. Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neill play an unhappily married couple who seek a divorce. Not before long, the jealous Neill has become a seething mad man, and Adjani takes shelter in a squalid apartment where she has housed an octopus-like creature that she routinely makes love to. Zulawski has said that the screenplay was written while he was undergoing a bad divorce, which should come as no surprise – this being a film where a divorce is the means of an apocalypse, where all the self-loathing and every unspoken bitterness towards a partner is manifested in nightmarish extremes. The title does not seem merely to refer to the growing lunacy of the ex-lovers, but of marriage as an act of possession in itself. Neill’s every violent outburst seems to stem from his desire to own Adjani, whereas she seeks liberation from him (and the human male populous at large, it would appear). Few films reflect such a singular, uncompromised vision – the visuals are flamboyant, using intense close-ups, exaggerated camera movements, and editing that jumps radically in time and place, and they are matched by Neill and Adjani, both uninhibited in unforgettably frenzied performances. The film’s most lasting image is a long tracking shot wherein Adjani begins convulsing in a subway station, violently writing against the wall in hysterics and suffering from an apparent miscarriage that results in blood and white ooze leaking from her every orifice.


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Great review, it’s not the easiest film to watch but it’s certainly one that’s hard to forget.

Comment by vinnieh

Absolutely. If you see the film in the morning, it’ll likely wreck your day.

It’s much more visceral than the contemporary idea of “shock” cinema. For Zulawski, even a simple shouting match becomes just as grotesque and violent as his gore.

Comment by Eric Fuerst

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