AKA: The Night the Screaming Stops
DIRECTED BY: Andrzej Zulawski
FEATURING: Isabelle Adjani, Sam Neill, Margit Carstensen, Heinz Bennent, Johanna Hofer, Carl Duering, Shaun Lawton
PLOT: A secret agent finds himself in a real mess when he hires a detective to track his
WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: With campy acting, absurdist elements mixed with existentialist philosophy, arty cinematography, and a story full of all kinds of bizarre and wacky stuff like sex with sea creatures, pointless self mutilation, and people making funny faces for no apparent reason, Possession is practically tailor made to make the List. While I personally don’t think Possession represents a serious effort to convey meaning substantial enough to qualify for the List, I am confident that most viewers will strongly disagree with me. Possession has a resolute feel about it that will be enough to convince most fans of weird movies that it is a meaningful and significantly weird cinematic endeavor. Out of deference to those fans I hereby recommend it without reservation.
COMMENTS: A love triangle among eccentric characters spirals out of control and becomes a love octagon. And the protagonist’s girlfriend is in love with some of kind of octopussy thing.
Sam Neil plays a spy who quits his job to spend more time with his girlfriend and out of wedlock son. She leaves him, he has a nervous breakdown that leads to a three-week black-out, he meets the new boyfriend who is quite completely insane and possibly a little queer for Sam.
Sam dates his son’s teacher who appears to be his wife’s twin. Meanwhile the wife leaves the new boyfriend for another boyfriend who is some kind of extraterrestrial octopus, to whom she feeds a succession of uninvited guests, such as a private detective and an insane window inspector (yes that’s right, an insane window inspector.)
In the midst of all of this, the characters physically and verbally convulse in spastic apoplexies of philosophical existentialism, unleash stupid violence against each other, and indulge in self mutilation for no particular reason. They make extreme facial expressions and engage in crazy talk about their love and angst in a random series of bizarre vignettes.
Yup. That’s about it.
Oh, and Isabelle Adjani shags the octopus.
We get to see it.
I wish I were that octopus.
Possession starts out looking like an art film, the kind which genuinely has something to express, the type that takes a symbolic, perhaps metaphorical approach to it’s thesis, getting at it’s subject without words, as a concept, in some abstract way. But about halfway through the picture, this approach becomes tiresome because it dawns on the viewer that in fact, the film has nothing much to say at all, and it has been weird only for the sake of being weird.
Imagine if you will, Edward Albee’s Tiny Alice crossed with Naked Lunch. If Zulawski has something meaningful in mind that he wants to communicate, he is not a very effective director, because his message is not logically discernible.
There are of course, self-proclaimed “cinephiles” who will presume that if they can’t understand it, and it looks arty, that it must be brilliant, perhaps too brilliant for them to get, though they may not admit not “getting it.”
When asked to explain what “it” is, they will likely just make a smug, knowing grin implying that if we didn’t get it, there’s just no point in even asking.
These are the same cinephiles who will pick out non-existent symbolism and roll their eyes heavenward in great reverence for the genius of it all. Yes, they will extract not only great symbolism, but maybe also metaphor and allegory. Then they will praise the arty camera work for it’s skillfulness, as if skillfully produced nonsense has some sort of merit.
Well, screw them.
This movie is long on style and short on decipherable substance, suitable for the LSD crowd, though with it’s schizophrenic script and cinematography, Possession on top of a dose of LSD would be redundant. For all the money spent on arty sets, stylish cinematography, as well as hiring the beautiful, pre-plastic surgery and breast enhancement Isabelle Adjani (Sam Neill is cute in this too—we would like to see them “do it”), the producers could have made a very dark, creepy film, something along the lines of XTRO. Regrettably, they lacked such focus, perhaps thinking in their cannabis-induced haze that they were instead creating great art.
“…pieced together in an almost hallucinatory manner, with Żuławski employing the fragmented editing of Nicolas Roeg and the surreal plot tangents of Alejandro Jodorowsky… a strange, essential slice of art-horror.”–Matt McAllister, Total Sci-Fi Online (DVD)
Possession international trailer