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.

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

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Reviews & Commentary

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3 July 2008 | unbrokenmetal
She's the maker of her own evil
Surely other Zulawski movies like "La femme publique" and "L'important c'est d'aimer" have dark, disturbing moments, too, but "Possession" must be the most terrifying of them all. It all begins perfectly normal, like something that could happen every day, anywhere in your neighborhood: Anna (Adjani) leaves Mark (Sam Neill), she confesses she found a new lover already a year ago, and then the breaking up of their marriage naturally affects their little son, too. "I'm the maker of my own evil", Anna says once, and the evil she creates is visualized literally as a slimy demon, whereas Mark "creates" a school teacher looking exactly like Anna (and also played by Adjani), a woman so pure and innocent they go to bed together without having sex, and of course the idealized woman immediately takes care of his son ... and the dish washing ;-). The torment and hysteria of destroyed love is perfectly set in a Berlin before reunification, with the wall appearing countless times in the frame: an obvious symbol that divides what used to belong together, just like the characters in the movie. The "possessed" Adjani delivers an unforgettable performance, but if you are going to watch this, be prepared for more blood and guts than in "The Exorcist".

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Did You Know?


Isabelle Adjani won the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1981 for her performances in both this picture and James Ivory's Merchant-Ivory Production of Quartet (1981).


Anna: Because you say "I" for me.


In the kitchen scene where Anna cuts herself with an electric knife, Mark picks it up and starts slicing his left arm multiple times. The next day, he is in the kitchen again with his sleeves rolled up, but there are no cuts on his arm. Given the surreal nature of this film, this could have been planned. The camera focuses on the supposedly sliced arm. One can only speculate what message was intended, if in fact the "gaff" was intentional.

Alternate Versions

The shortest version of Possession runs 80 minutes and was cuts in nearly every scene with a number of scenes being completely deleted, especially near the end. Several scenes were also moved to another location. Anna's ballet lesson and Mark's report to his superiors were used as a pre-credits sequence. Anna's miscarriage in the subway tunnel appeared before Mark visited Heinrich and Mark's first encounter with Helen appeared after he sat on the bed by Margit. The film's climax was rendered incomprehensible by the heavy use of filters and editing. The film also featured a new soundtrack, composed by Art Philips (III), playing up the horror aspect of the film featuring a children's choir rendition of "Baa Baa Black Sheep" and other themes featuring distorted voices and synths.


Plot Summary


Drama | Horror

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