Spoilers think a little therapy might do you good.
Okey. This is one weird movie, and to me it does some very strange very well: it takes a ton of risks. I’m not saying it all pays off in the end, but it commits to it. This is the 4K restoration version that has the entire plot. The plot is going to be a challenge for anybody, but in a time the premise of most mainstream features unfolds predictably, this one was a complete mystery. We’re going to get into it, but this one’s definitely only for the experimental moviegoer.
Possession (1981) is directed by Andrzej Zulawski who wrote it with Frederic Tuten. Mark (Sam Neill) has come back from a secretive business trip that might be espionage to his home in West Berlin. Anna (Isabelle Adjani), is his wife who wants to end their marriage. Although most descriptions of this film will explain the premise as Anna becoming unhinged, I don’t believe that’s fair. They are both in a heightened state that seems completely off. As a matter of fact, although Anna is the one that exteriorizes her hysteria while Mark is psychotic in his own way. Anna appears to have a lover, Heinrich (Heinz Bennent), who doesn’t seem any closer to understanding what is happening to Anna.
The film is full of metaphor. There’s the notion of doubles. Mark sees his son’s teacher as a milder, gentler, version of Anna, called Helen (also played by Isabelle Adjani). Meanwhile, Anna is cultivating (literally) the company of one particularly scary character who I will let you discover if you decide to get into this hectic construct. I don’t believe anybody in this film is particularly normal, or even possibly real. The film can be violent, sadistic and the fear and horror that is used to tell this story is embedded in the performances of both Adjani and Neill. This might be Adjani’s more powerful and disturbing performance.
If drama is the genre used to tell the tale of a broken marriage, this is more psychological horror being used to surface the disintegration of two halves. The fact that this was filmed near Berlin Wall is also no accident. The cinematography is excellent. Sometimes moves the camera from the outside circling in, giving us literally the multiple angles to see the drama unfold. Other times it trails a character but following a different path, portraying a distressed mental state.
The premise is convoluted to say the least. Adjani and Neill are both in a seeming state of deliriousness, but the rest of the cast also appears to have diverse and bizarre reactions of their own. This, plus an ending that I am not disclosing because understanding or depicting it is beyond me, means this film is going to be almost impossible to guess an audience for. However I can’t deny it has some enthralling and engaging performances albeit it can be a challenging watch.
Strongly recommended for fans of experimental psychological horror with reservations. This one’s not for the faint of heart or mind. The performance of Isabelle Adjani is on a whole new level, but it is a challenge and difficult to watch. Not far behind, is the amazing acting by Sam Neill. However the premise and the execution of the premise is abstract at best, obtuse at worst. This is a challenging watch for those who don’t mind a challenge.
That will do for now.