AKA The Night the Screaming Stops
“…Viktor Shklovsky wrote about how the job of the artist was to come up with a device that made the familiar seem strange. The ‘strangeness’ sets our brain a challenge, and the process of dealing with it is engaging – not just on an intellectual level, but an emotional one too… In Possession, Żuławski made a marital breakdown ‘strange’ by showing ‘the horror’ – this was not Scenes from a Marriage – it was something else.”–Daniel Bird
“Nothing wants to bite anymore – they want to lick.”– Andrzej Zulawski, from the Possession commentary track.
DIRECTED BY: Andrzej Zulawski
FEATURING: Isabelle Adjani, Sam Neill, Heinz Bennent, Margit Carstensen, Carl Duering, Shaun Lawton
PLOT: Mark, an agent for some unspecified agency, returns home to his wife, Anna, and son in Berlin only to find that Anna has taken a lover. She splits her time between her home and her lover; however, Mark still wants her, causing extensive conflict between them. He uncovers a previous affair with a man named Heinrich, but she also left him for another—and finding the identity of her current lover leads to mayhem and a rising body count.
- Andrzej Zulawski conceived Possession in the wake of several events—the collapse of his marriage to actress Małgorzata Braunek after being allowed to return to Poland from exile after the international success of 1975’s The Most Important Thing Is To Love, and the subsequent production and shutdown of On The Silver Globe and his second exile from Poland.
- Zulawski originally pitched the film to Paramount Studio head Charlie Bluhdorn, calling it “a movie about a woman who f**ks an octopus.” They passed.
- The film played at Cannes and Isabelle Adjani won “Best Actress,” sharing the award for her roles in both Possession and Merchant/Ivory’s Quartet.
- The final film was chopped up by distributors. The U.S. release was notorious for being a total misrepresentation of the movie: the distributor removed about 40 minutes, reshuffled scenes, and added optical effects to play up and sell it as a horror movie. The Australian version made similar cuts. It wasn’t until 2000 that the original version was available to be seen in the U.S.
- Possession was briefly released in the UK, but on videotape it was later banned as a “video nasty,” a classification intended for extreme horror films with no artistic merit.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: In a film with many memorable images, mainly close-ups of the characters in various stages of mania, the one that sticks is of Adjani’s Anna being serviced by something coiled around her… and writhing.
THREE WEIRD THINGS: Pink socks; subway miscarriage; Anna’s lover
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: It starts out as a domestic drama turned up to 11, which then goes up to 15. The intensity is compelling, especially when most other relationship films at the time went for quiet decorum. Possession throws all that right out the window. And then at the midway point, it drops the bottom out of expectations with the introduction of the Creature.
Possession international release trailer
COMMENTS: There seems to be no major disagreement about Possession joining a list of “weird” anything. The fur begins to fly in the Continue reading 252. POSSESSION (1981)