Possession (1981)

R   |    |  Drama, Horror


Possession (1981) Poster

A woman starts exhibiting increasingly disturbing behavior after asking her husband for a divorce. Suspicions of infidelity soon give way to something much more sinister.


7.4/10
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  • Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neill at an event for Possession (1981)
  • Isabelle Adjani in Possession (1981)
  • Isabelle Adjani and Heinz Bennent in Possession (1981)
  • Isabelle Adjani in Possession (1981)
  • Isabelle Adjani and Andrzej Zulawski in Possession (1981)
  • Isabelle Adjani at an event for Possession (1981)

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8 December 2011 | Quinoa1984
8
| "God is in me"
It's staggering to come up against a filmmaker who has a truly mad vision to put onto celluloid. If it's really believable and the maker isn't just putting on the audience it can take us into that madness. Possession is a film that is like it's title, taken with it's own sense of grandeur, starting off as a Scenes-from-a-Marriage-esque tale of downfall - with more ZAP and wildness in the fights the married couple have - but with something just not quite right. These scenes feel raw and uninhibited, by the actors and by the material, which goes to such extremes of how much they hurt one another that it becomes perversely funny.

Why all the camera movement in this film, especially early on, where it turns into Vittorio Storaro Time with a Red Bull chaser? From the sensibility of the high emotions and hysteria on display, why not? If your material is going all out, then you might as well go all out with it. Isabelle Adjani really, REALLY goes to town here, forgetting that there's such a thing as 'chewing scenery' and just stampeding through it at times, with Sam Neill and the camera operator being breathless to keep up. It's a film that moves with real force and energy... sometimes maybe TOO much force and energy.

For a film like possession, excess is not something that can be kept back, but what is so fascinating is that it's so intense at times, in the husband/wife interactions, the emotional violence springing out into physical abuse (at one point a slap is then encouraged into more, an uncomfortable scene done just right), that it's fascinating because it's going into such high volume. And as a horror film, a true horror film of the soul where it's laid bare and stripped out by a demon and f***ed with a spiky tail or something, it's bewildering, mind-boggling, and a dark pile of fun.

A lot of it is the performances - Adjani worked her ass off to get that Cannes best actress win, and though there are times I can't understand her (not sure if it's the accent or the lines, like her 'fate and chance' monologue) and runs the gamut as a character who starts out flawed and damaged and gets so turned-inside-out she makes Linda Blair in the Exorcist look like a... girl. And Sam Neill has a kind of strange appeal here - at times he talks like he doesn't take these lines seriously, or is doing so SO much that it just becomes funny, and other times he is genuinely power-punching with his dramatic touch. In a scene like the restaurant fight he goes between both levels.

But why I may, someday, after I can get over the experience, would return to Possession is that among the f***ing-insane style of films out there, there's nothing else quite like it. It revels in bringing the audience into its horror set-pieces, especially with that creature in the apartment as ambiguous a demon as the baby in Eraserhead, and the dread in every man going into that apartment harder to bear than the one before. And there is genuine pain, I think, in the filmmaking. I don't know the history behind the film's gestation but I'd wager the director had a bad marriage and expressed it, literally and metaphorically, with a tale of an unfaithful woman brought to madness by a demon... or maybe that's it.

Possession doesn't spoon-feed at any point in time. On the contrary, and maybe this is a flaw I think, there's so little explanation of anything in the film that by the last fifteen minutes as Sam Neill's character goes ape-s**t and the husband/wife's child just gives up. It got to the point where I had my hands up in a 'what the hell!?' position sitting in my seat in the theater. Perhaps another viewing would solve some of my quandaries, or just make new ones. Whatever the case, the mood of this film is chilling and harrowing, and for those who like their dolly shots, this is a must-must-MUST see. Oh, and by the way, the creature effects - by the guy that did E.T.(!)

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