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  • I'm not very good at plot synopsis, and I very rarely write reviews, but this film could quite possibly be a distant cousin to David Lynchs 'Eraserhead', in that it involves a marriage gone wrong, a (perhaps) mutant baby, infidelity, and so much more that is felt emotionally rather than explained and read into.

    It contains the most OTT, eccentric, and brilliant performances I've ever seen, and you can't say that about many films, where the performances are unique and different. There's serious acting, hammy acting, B movie acting, serious/Oscar winning acting, comical acting, silent film acting, but never any acting like you have seen in this film. And I guess you could include David Lynch acting, as thats pretty unique too. And of course method acting.

    Its like watching a theatrical play in cinematic form on acid. A lot of acid.

    I showed this to my friend who has the darkest possible taste in films I've ever known, owns over a thousand dvds, and even he was blown away by the sheer chaos, resonant imagery, beautifully swift camera work and photography, and of course, the performances. Most notably Isabella Adjani who manages to be sexy and scary as hell at the same time. Her performance in this is monumental, especially the often noted 'underground menstruation' scene which could induce some viewers to a panic attack. I certainly nearly had one when I watched the film for the first time.

    When a character has a breakdown in this film (both of the leads) its a REAL breakdown. And boy, do you ever feel it. Its realistic yet surreal. God knows how the director managed to coax these types of performances out of his actors. He must of drugged them or hypnotized them or something. He certainly didn't just yell 'action'.

    The way the scenes are cut together is highly unusual and unconventional but it makes absolute perfect sense. I don't know how, it just does. I'm unfamiliar with the directors other work but if its even half as good as this I'll order everything I can get of his.

    Recommended to any open minded individual who likes films that draw attention to themselves with an utter sense of uniqueness.
  • Acting, colour, camera movement and story thrown into hyperactivity…What do you get? Well, the headache inducing, enthralling Possession. Beautiful, erotic and extremely disturbing, Andrjez Zulawski's film (admired by the Italian Master of the Macabre himself, Dario Argento) is an extreme assault upon the senses.

    Mark (played excellently and deliberately over-the-top by Sam Neil) returns home from secret government work to his wife in Berlin, cue many shots of the Berlin wall representing the couple's marital breakdown. However, Mark's wife, Anna (a truly unforgettable, no holds barred and hypnotic performance from the lovely Isabelle Adjani) is behaving inexcusably strangely. Mark finds out that she is having an affair with Heinrick (another crazy performance from Heinz Bennet) and confronts him only to find that the lover has not seen Anna for some time. This is the part of the rollercoaster ride before your cart

    plummets into some real thought-provoking, unsettling and scary surrealism.

    Possession is definitely the film that requires many subsequent viewings. Excellent performances that frequently go way OTT, dreamily fluid camerawork and migraine inducing metaphorical horror, this is a true beast of the imagination. Love it or hate it, it is a true original masterpiece that is definitely not for all tastes. If films were placed in boxes and divided by flavours, like crisps, POSSESSION would sit in a box entirely by its self, awaiting only those who can take it. Go into it with an open mind like you've never gone into a film with one before. It can seriously mentally damage you if you try and figure it all out on that initial viewing, so beware; if there is truly anything to work out. The now infamous miscarriage in the subway scene is confusing, painful and sickening to watch and nothing like it can be found elsewhere. This is a hell of a film, if you're prepared for it!

    `This for me exceeds anything thrown up by The Exorcist for sheer impact on the nervous system.' David Thompson - Sight and Sound
  • This film doesn't do anything in halves, it doesn't abide by the mock humility of an understated/minimalist film that says "I am important but I'm not gonna show it to you". I generally love overstated/baroque movies as much as I like overactors (Kinski, Bette Davies, Nic Cage) but Possession goes beyond Gothic, it flaunts itself in violent anarchy even when it knows it's not being important. It's a movie in a constant state of violent flux, a chaotic maelstrom of emotion threatening to rip apart at the seams by force of its own negativity, an excess of emotion and abundance of expression. I don't know what Zulawski is trying to say through the film about his own divorce from wife and country and political system, like Eraserhead it's something so personal that it pierces through bottoms of the soul to come out at the other end and speak for things that touch all of us.

    Sam Neill and Isabelle Adjani see their marriage come crashing down and the film is not merely the death and burial but the wake before and the mourning after. I don't like how Zulawski uses Isabelle Adjani to play different characters very calculated to be different sides of the same person, but then again I don't like movies that do that, it's like a very easy way to a quick symbolism (Ashes of Time, another film I saw recently, does that too). And I don't like who the monster turns out to be, for the same reason, and also because the monster, bloody and deformed, is a better parable of all the bile and hatred and oppressed furious anger felt the character who nurses it to life. The symbolism is too clear almost.

    But the rest of the film you watch in stupefied silence. Possession is like a woman in the grip of hysterics running around an apartment tossing and breaking things and cutting herself up with a meat knife, arms flailing like an armature of a tentacled beast ready to tear itself out from a human body.

    What Zulawski does here is perfectly illustrated in one scene: the couple have one of their terrible rows in the apartment, the woman storms out, music cue plays then stops, and we get the impression the scene has played out, we expect the cut. But then Zulawski has the camera track behind the man as he chases the woman down the stairs of their apartment and out in the street, pulling at each other and yelling in the middle of an empty intersection, then a truck carrying beatup cars comes rolling by, cars falling crashing down from it. Like the wail of a banshee, Possession is demented and frightful.

    It's a movie that doesn't happen in the same place as other movies. Sometimes it gets hard for me for example to differentiate the look and feel of one noir from the other, one NYC crime flick from the other. Like Don't Look Now with its Venetian labyrinths, this has a sense of place and a malevolent presence in that place. It happens in that part of the city where other movies don't know how to go, the streets are different, the buildings and apartments look curiously different, and when an apartment catches on fire, there's a strange old woman down in the street corner yelling things about God ("giving the light clear, getting it back dirty") and cackling maniacally as though an end to the world is very close at hand.

    Both Sam Neil and Isabelle Adjani give performances of a lifetime. Neil is going through the motions though, except for his 'going mad in a hotel room' scene in the beginning, his madness is external, pantomimed. Isabelle Adjani lives it though, feels and breathes it. She gives perhaps the most outstanding female performance I have ever seen. Her scene in the subway station, all spasmodic intensity and wordless cries, affected me physically like no other, at once monstrous and immensely sad.

    This movie is a nervous breakdown and an agnostic lament against an absent indifferent God captured on celluloid. The tagline for the American release reads "She made a monster her secret lover", but this is not that type of film. This is like few films ever made, before or after, and is done with the ferocity of someone going mad in four walls, now perhaps clawing at the walls with blood and bile and staring at his designs as though there might be pattern and order there.
  • Yeah, Possession. The First time I saw this film I was catatonic by the end. My 3 friends and I talked about it so much we got 4 new friends to watch it with us again. We continued discussing & marveling over it and watched it yet again on the third night (ten people this time). Why? Because this isn't really a horror film. Yeah, there's a "monster", but only in America would this get relegated to the "Horror" genre. Because here, we usually make films to fit in a box, follow a formula or entertain, not as a catharsis for the director. Wake up my friends; not everything in life fits in tidy packages or makes rational sense. Several years ago there was an amazing fan site to this man's work (which doesn't seem to exist anymore) that went into infinite detail about his films and personal life. Suffice to say, there's much more going on here than you think.

    During 1970's and 80's Poland, all films were approved by the Polish film commission and Zulawski's second film "Diabel" (1975) was banned. Made in Polish, "Diabel" was essentially cut off from it's only possible audience. He took a trip to France, ended up making a film and then returned to his homeland. He worked on yet another film for two years which the authorities did not allow him to finish. Since then he has basically lived and worked successfully in France.

    "Possession" is the first film he made immediately following the 2nd incident in Poland. I read an interview where he talked about how his personal identity was in crisis at the time due to his divorce and being (for all intents and purposes) exiled from his homeland. "Possession" is better described as 3 films in 1. The first part is indeed a drama centering around a couple who's marriage is falling apart. As their discord escalates, it becomes a horror film with some scenes taking place only in the psyche of the wife. The last part is an action film, driving the frenzied pace even higher through chase sequences.

    There are many lines of dialog (especially in exchanges between Heinz and Sam Neill) that were written as critique of his treatment by the government of Poland. In many ways this film is an examination of the internal landscape of Zulawski at that moment; divorced from his wife and exiled by his beloved homeland. It's astoundingly dramatized because he was probably on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and these characters/actors are screamingly portraying every pent-up emotion he wasn't allowed to say about Poland to his fellow countrymen. I love this film. I love every gut wrenching, hysterical, chaotic minute of it. Long live Zulawski.
  • 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".
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Imagine Bergman's 'Scenes From a Marriage' filmed by Dario Argento using Kubrick's 'Shining' steadicam. I can't pretend to have actually UNDERSTOOD this intellectually rigorous horror film, but I do know that it is arguably the most beautiful film of the 1980s, that ugliest of cinematic decades.

    The chief source of this beauty is Zulawski's camerawork, unsettling, spacious, constantly mobile, it achieves the kind of elaborate shots you normally expect with cumbersome, expensive equipment with the nimbleness of a handheld camera. Static scenes in repetitive milieux are subjected to awesomely complex movements, as the camera encircles, tracks, reveals, blocks, opens up space, creating a narrative that never stands still, offering us different, usually startling viewpoints within the one scene.

    What is most remarkable is its transformation of scale - the film is set in Cold-War Berlin, a famously constricted city; the plot takes place mostly in inhumanly modern apartments or on streets, and yet the sense of size, scale, space is as monumental as a Fordian Western. This is apt for characters who are simultaneously confined and alienated by their environment. Even scenes of flamboyant repulsiveness, the puling monster mounting Isabella Adjani, Mark's lavatorial dispatch of Heinrich, have a clarity of composition that is simply breathtaking.

    Unlike most horror films, which open with images of normality against which to measure the transgression of terror, 'Possession' hurls us into its relentless unpleasantness in medias res. Zulawski opens at full speed and never lets up. Mark in his car looks out at a city he hasn't seen for some time as if it is an alien land, full of troubling images, including an iron cross. Anna rushes to meet him. We assume they are husband and wife, reuniting, but their talk if full of exasperated dislocation. Mark has apparently come home too early. They have a son; after making love, their post-coital talk is full of Antonionian misunderstanding, uncertainty, alienation, cruelty.

    These scenes create the mood of the whole film. 'Possession' is shot in English with a French lead by a Polish director. The dialogue has a stilted quality, like a translation from some lost original; this sense of not-quite-rightness extends to the acting, and the scenes themselves, which seem too mannered, too abrupt, too stylised to seem natural. This sense of the drama being at one remove from some original 'reality' is perfect for a film about alienation - people alienated from themselves, each other, their marriage, their home, even their identity.

    The horror that constitutes the film obviously has its roots in the female hysteria (one scene in a subway, remembered by Anna, has her miscarry, as she pours out blood and milk, the essence of her femaleness spilling from her; the toilet scene between Heinrich and Mark has a gynaecological terror similar to Argento's 'Suspiria') and male bestiality that cannot be hidden by affluent modernity, but this, on its most basic level, is a harrowing portrait of a failed marriage, horribly truthful to anyone who has even rejoiced in that institution.

    All the while we are constantly reminded of the contemporary political reality - Mark's espionage (or is he an assassin?) activities; the wired Berlin wall with its faceless surveillance guards (a divided city, a divided marriage, literally divided people, the whore and the madonna). The film has a lot of talk about faith, chance, God, good and evil, but its true power is recognisably more mundane, yet more unaccountably wrenching than that. One should not overlook the comic sense that flickers through the film, the exaggeration of scenes by prolonging them (the restaurant scene), and the Franju-like waltz-of-death music.
  • Possession(1981) shows the viewer a relationship deep in dementia and repressed emotions. Mark and Anna stay together until the Death do us part moment. The family of Anna and Mark is probably the most disfunctional family ever portrayed on scree. The marriage of Anna and Mark is unstable to the point of total meltdown. The marriage is driven by harsh love, secretcy, and oppressed feelings of desire.

    Isabelle Adjani gives a fantastic performance in the duel role of Anna and Helen. Anna and Helen are the polar opposites in their manners and personalities. One thing they have in common is their current life is shrouded in mystery. Helen in my opinion is Mark's fantasy of Anna as someone who is normal and stable. I find it interesting that Anna & Helen never meet or are seen together during the entire length of Possession(1981).

    The East Germany locations are part of what makes Possession(1981) a special piece of film. The marriage of Anna and Mark is symbolic of the wall that divided Germany for many years. In Possession(1981), East Germany is a Kafkaesque place of fear, oppression, paranoia, and repression. With the bright lit lighting and colors East Germany gains the appearence of something futuristic. Gives East Germany a cold and indifferent feeling that inhibits every resident.

    1981 was a year which gave us two extrodanory performances from actresses Isabelle Adjani and Zoe Tamerlis. Both put forth an emotional complex and disturbing performance in Possession(1981) and Ms. 45(1981). These two features show women with seas of emotions trapped within them until their frightening descent into madness. Both films seem to have been influenced by Repulsion(1964). Ms. 45 and Possession were two of the most underrated films of 1981.

    Possession(1981) is steeped in complex and confound religious symbolics. The landscape of the motion picture is a place that has lost touch with its own spiritualty. The film needs to be watched more than three times in order to get a close clear understanding of the symbolic meanings. The main characters in the film(except Heinrich) no longer have any faith in religion. The final scene seems to symbolize the apocalyptic end of the world that is an element of Christianity.

    The best way to see or try to understand Possession(1981) is in its full 127 minute version. The 81 minute version is one of the worst editing jobs ever done to an import film for American release. For example the opening and closing scenes were totally botched in the film's American release in 1981. Thus the movie was misintrpeted by many film goers and critics. Thankfully, Possession has been restored on Video in its uncut form.

    The cinematography is one of the key aspects in Possession(1981). It moves among the characters of the film with sinister steps. Bruno Nuytten uses some excellent techniques to describe to events of the film. The DP and Director work together to create an intense and terrific type of genre film making. The role of DP was Bruno Nuytten's early step towards becoming a film director.

    Possession(1981) is a mixture of a few different genres in cinema. The genre that the film belongs to in large parts is the horror genre. Inspired story by both director, Andrzej Zulawski and writer, Frederic Tuten. There is a wonderful plot twist near the end that is one of Possession's best moments. Its the kind of film I would expect from someone like David Cronenberg.

    For her brave and courageous performance in Possession(1981), Isabelle Adjani won a Best Actress award at Cannes. She has been playing brave and difficult roles since The Story of Adele H(1975). She would play a similar character like this in One Deadly Summer(1986). Possession(1981) is a personal favorite of Dario Argento. Done by Andrzej Zulawski because of his frustrations to see an earlier film in Poland by him censored by that country's government.

    An early film appearence by Sam Neil that may just be his top performance as an actor. The creature is a top of the line creation by Special Effects artist, Carlo Rambaldi. Shares some similarities with David Cronenberg's The Brood(1979), and Mario Bava's Shock(1977). A daring motion picture that should be watched by mature and open minded people. Possession(1981) blew my emotions away with its tense opening scene to its spine tingling and chaotic final moment.
  • Famously violent, bloody and brutal, Possession is a member of that most hallowed hall of "Video Nasties" we know and love. Boasting scenes of some noteworthy infamy, Andrzej Zulawski's complex allegorical explanation of marital disintegration is known for its thematic obscurity.

    In Cold War Berlin, Mark returns home from unclear duties to a marriage which is on its last legs. His wife Anna, suffering from increasingly inclement behaviour and mood swings brought about by their ailing relationship, is revealed to be having an affair, leading Mark to investigate. What he discovers is more bizarre even than his wife's drug loving German lover.

    The one feeling which appears to be universal in conjunction with Possession is that of helpless confusion. As the credits roll, the only thing we can justifiably think is "What just happened?!" The film is utterly mad; unendingly so. From start to finish, I struggled not to miss a beat amidst the mire. Difficult to follow and impossible to understand at first, Zulawski's frustrating work leaves us scratching our heads for the entirety of its running time. Possession's gradual descent from a Kramer Vs. Kramer-esquire marital drama to a bloody and supernatural allegory is as surprising as it is bizarre and mental. Thereafter, we are treated to a visual feast of harrowing images and strangely violent outbursts. The increasingly insane plot is marred by overeager performances, though it is considerably attention grabbing. The film is not at all a bad one, providing a deeply interesting message (which may take time and thought to fully comprehend) albeit through a hazy, complicated and apparently nonsensical narrative. Additionally, Heinz Bennent's Heinrich is a wonderful and whimsical character, bringing an element of farcical comedy to the plot.

    Managing to shock and surprise as well as stupefy, Possession is a film well versed in oddity. Exploring an interesting topic with a veiled depth, it gives us a message in an unconventional way which is quite brilliant in itself.
  • kinoman-226 October 1999
    The very reason why this film was lambasted by so many people is because it requires the full use of imagination on the part of the viewer. Those who like films to be linear or over-explained (almost 90% of all films and almost 100% of all Hollywood films) will call this film confusing, baffling, hysterical, etc. However, very few directors are able to use cinematic space as Zulawski does in this film. This doesn't appeal to your rational part, it's supposed to connect with you on spiritual or deeply emotional level, it's supposed to appeal to something in you that can't be rationalized or explained verbally. Possession is a piece of pure cinema, no less.
  • I love ambiguity in films. Which is why Haneke's "Cache," "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "Picnic at Hanging Rock" all rank very highly amongst my favourite films. It's great when filmmakers give viewers credit and allow them to draw their own conclusions or search for their own meaning. Unfortunately, for "Possession," I don't really care enough about the characters to want to go through the mental gymnastics required to dig out the deeper meaning hidden in this film.

    It's apparent early on in the film that much of the action is allegorical or meant to reflect the internal emotions of a couple going through a divorce. (God, I hope so. If it's meant to be a literal story, it's a monumental fail. A really annoying horror film.) If only there were an honest moment where you got to feel that these are real characters who perhaps were once a real couple with a real connection before the film slipped into allegory. A marriage can't slowly disintegrate if it never happened.

    And it's disappointing, because I really like Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neill, and rate them both as actors. They obviously put everything into their performances, which must have been very demanding, the only reason I can conjure up a few stars for this one. That and the special effects, which are super creepy and hold up well more than 30 years later. Oh, and the amazing German architecture.

    But there are too many reasons it's hard to take this film seriously. The over-the-top acting, goofy choreography, elaborate camera moves for inconsequential moments, closeups so tight they managed to make even Isabelle Adjani look bad, soundtrack that's completely ripped off from "The Godfather." There were quite a few laugh-out-loud moments that I'm certain weren't meant that way.

    Perhaps the filmmaker meant it as purely art, and it's raw emotion splattered on the screen. But my takeaway was, it's hopelessly dense. Every scene, every action, every movement, every word is imbued with a deeper meaning that, unfortunately, can only be deciphered by the filmmaker, and leaves the viewer with little more than the visceral experiences played out on the screen.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Possession" is a weird horror film by Polish art house director Andrzej Zulawski.Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neill("Event Horizon","Omen 3")star as a couple who's marriage is on the rocks.Adjani claims to have a lover-she has a surreal affair with an octopus creature.First of all this movie is great,so every horror fan should check it out.Obviously some people don't get it-maybe they were expecting some cheesy horror bloodbath,who knows?Of course there's some exceptional gore including where Adjani slices into her own neck with an electric carving knife and a scene where she has a miscarriage on the metro which is quite disgusting(and possibly due to this scene the film was classified as a video nasty),but the atmosphere is really creepy and weird.The acting is awesome-especially an incredible performance by Isabelle Adjani.Watch this film with an open mind and an open heart,and I guarantee you will love "Possession".
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This was my first experience with Zulawski (and thank god because the next film I saw by him is the even more difficult, even more bizarre "On The Silver Globe" and "Diabel"). This film however floored me instantly. People can and will mention the in...(read more)tensity of all the performances, the swirling cinematography which moves constantly even as the characters remain static, and the bizarre ridiculousness of the situations these characters find themselves in. Anyone watching this movie would be hard pressed not to laugh at quite a few scenes, some of which are intentionally funny, others merge grotesquery, absurdity, and intensity to such a degree that it's impossible not to laugh out of discomfort.

    The story also is not a kitchen sink affair, but a surreal examination of division and breakdown. The setting is west Berlin, a divided city, and we are introduced to our characters a divided couple whose marriage is in smolders, Sam Niels character has some shadowy job with the government and he's been "away at the war", while his wife has seemingly lost all control over her life due to an obsessive affair with...(SPOILERALERT) ...a slimy tentacled creator which resembles an scaly abortion with the head of a carrot, like the baby from "Eraserhead" had they let it grow up and reproduce with the sentient pile of zombie intestines from "Dead Alive". Meanwhile, Sam Niels character grows more and more suspicious and begins an affair with his sons school teacher who is also played by Issabell Adanji, and is essentially the opposite(or other) of Sam Niels wife's character, calm, sweet, dependable and loving, to manic, maddening, unstable and lustful. To prevent her other lovers, policemen, and curious parties from finding out about her relationship which she describes as beautiful for its "otherness", Adjani(as Niels wife) kills several people leaving their corpses spread about her flat. Sam Niel, after one knock-out emotional performance after another, discovers the horrible truth. His wife was pregnant and miscarried(in a disturbingly powerful scene where she menstruates milk in a dimly lit subway), and gave birth to a "thing", which she took back to an apartment and fed until it became the tentacle creature, who she then took up as her lover(shown in another disturbing erotic scene). Sam Niel's character is horrified, and flees, until the two catch up with him them and the creature is revealed in his fully grown form (which is played by Sam Niel, just as Adjani had dual roles), the creature smiles, and appears to be invulnerable as a hail of police bullets cut down Niel(human) and his wife, but don't seem to affect the creature. The creature then returns to the couples home, where their other young son repeats "dont open the door" and hides under his bed, as his teacher(also Adjani) screams in terror as the creature stands outside the door screaming and causing the house to shake and bright lights to appear which eventually overwhelm the camera and we have the end.

    So yeah, there's some intense performances, monster sex, and a story that feels more like Franz Kafka, bare desperate human emotions displayed through inhuman events and surreal happenings, more than Clive Barker(who was very influenced by this film). It's difficult to nail down precise meanings, and there are no polemical points or tragic flaws, it seems as if both characters have their angels and demons, and all that is assured in the end is destruction.

    "Possession: The Night The Screaming Stopped" is a one of a kind horror film full of psychological bends and monstrous gore, it's a story of a relationship divided, a nation divided, and an eternal divide between the "self" and the "other", that gives us our God's and monsters, as well as our repulsions and attractions. It is absolutely not a demonetization of "woman" as destroyer, as the dual roles suggest that no one is A. whole in any sense of the word and B. free of guilt. There's few horror films which are really this good (too smart for their own good, because this will largely sail over your head if your not watching closely, a good deal hinges on a one off sentence roughly about God having pink socks, and a man with pink socks showing up later, albeit briefly in the film).

    Very hard to find, Netflix doesn't carry it, but those of you in the Los Angeles area, might try Eddie Brandts Saturday Matinée in North Hollywood(just off the Orange Line), that's where I found a copy as well as many other hard to find films. Happy hunting.
  • jtoubro30 January 2002
    This has become my favorite movie, but only after watching it 5 times, and a 6th with the commentary of the great Zulawski. I believe this is the greatest movie ever, because it is completely flawless in its depiction of dysfunctional marriage, insanity, and ultimately the end of the world. Despite it being shot in 3 weeks, it is so tightly structured, beautifully shot, and marvellously acted, that at simply blows me away. I can only feel sorry for the people who have only seen the American version. Cutting a single frame from this movie would be a crime, and cutting 45 minutes is a sin.

    Another example of how the American movie censorships lack of understanding the art of cinema. Luckily the movie is now out on DVD,and any movie fan should pick this up.

    Possesion is simply a masterpiece!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    It took me ten years to see Possession, and finally viewing it was an experience I'll never forget, not ever, for as long as I live.

    How do I start this off? I suppose I can begin by saying that Possession was on a list of films I compiled that, by my estimation, were appealing to my own taste in cinema. I have always favoured dark stories (not to say that I don't love a great feel-good production!) but I knew from the minute I looked at the poster artwork, that Possession would be my kind of film.

    The story, right from the start, leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth. Anna is married to Mark and not quite right in the head. She is so unhinged, in fact, that within the first ten minutes, she tries to slit her own throat and attempts suicide by jumping in front of a bus on a crowded street before being pulled back. Mark's curiosity overcomes him and he suspects that Anna is sleeping with another man while he, at the same time, meets a woman who provides him with the comfort—both sexually and emotionally—that his own marriage lacks. But how wrong is he? Very wrong, in fact, and by the film's end, Mark may not be the only one who regrets ever opening the bag...

    This is not to say that the film's line of discovery is lacking—Possession is in fact one of the most startling, shocking, and earth shattering films I have ever had the privilege of seeing. If there even is a twinge of regret in the viewer, it might just be due to the polarising nature of the production itself. While the physical world around Anna and Mark may not be particularly nasty (they are clearly well off financially), the emotional world, in fact, is, due largely in part to Anna's complete mental breakdown and Mark's disassociation (some would even go so far as to say depersonalisation) from the crumbling marriage in front of him.

    This is not an easy film to watch. From its very start, we are bombarded with scenes from what is perhaps the unhappiest marriage ever to be depicted on screen. The atmosphere is both tense and mind-bogglingly horrifying. It is here where I have to commend Zulawski for his talents as a filmmaker. Not only does he effectively evoke a stark feeling of dread, and not only does he provide us with an atmosphere that is both nightmarish and chillingly relatable for those of us who have witnessed a home break apart, he also directs Isabelle Adjani in one of the best performances ever committed to celluloid.

    Adjani's Anna is both beautiful and disgusting, heartbreakingly tragic and polarising to the point we want to turn off our screens, but nevertheless, absolutely poignant in this portrait of a woman for whom love can unfortunately be found at the expense of her soul. What we witness is, in essence, the splicing of a soul, each part shattered, coated in blood and other trimmings and trappings so personal and shocking that we cannot divert our eyes from her insanity, nor can we will ourselves to extend our hands and offer her our aid. We can only watch. And while Sam Neill's performance is absolutely wonderful, Adjani amazingly steals the film from him (walking off the set with a well-publicised suicide attempt and the Best Actress Award at Cannes).

    It would be easy to place Possession under the label of a film where 'nothing happens but suffering.' To do so would not only be wrong, it would be stupid. It takes a lot to make a film this jarring, and while some may claim that its sole purpose was to shock, I can honestly say that it is, at its heart, a story not just of a dying romance, but a tale of passion—passion put in the wrong places. What ensues is the best depiction of an apocalyptic world I have ever seen on film, but I will leave it to the viewer to see what I mean.

    This is a film that needs to be seen to be believed; my words alone cannot do it justice. My sole piece of advice? A love for all types of cinema...and a very strong stomach.

    Definitely not for the faint of heart!
  • Food29 April 1999
    I think that Possession is one of the most effective horror films ever made.

    I've read mixed reactions to Possession. I think that this is because the writer/director intentionally introduces dozens of narrative ambiguities. There are many unanswered questions, and the viewer is placed in a position where she/he must become a creative participant by answering these questions for themselves. Audiences are by and large uncomfortable with this type of thing, but luckily I've seen a lot of experimental/unusual cinema, so I'm acclimated to it.

    Isabelle Adjani is glorious in a dual role (which is a reversal of the Bunuel mindgame from 'That Obscure Object of Desire'--Instead of two actresses playing a single character, there is a single actress playing two characters.)

    Adjani and Sam Neill's enacting of a horribly troubled marriage is spectacular. Heinz Bennet's distasteful character would give anyone the creeps. When Adjani is seen in the company of a terrible Lovecraftian monster, it's almost a relief after the awful domestic situations depicted earlier in the film. (I also appreciate how the monster is very tastefully seen only in fleeting segments.)

    Everyone is right--Find the Japanese cut of this film. It has Japanese subtitles, but it is much more comprehensible with 40 more minutes of footage.
  • Quinoa19848 December 2011
    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.(!)
  • I wanted to like this movie because it was recommended to me by a friend, but the over the top performances and bad dialogue made it a horrible experience. Isabelle Adjani is hysterical in almost every scene and Sam Neill, who I have always thought of as a great actor, gives the worst performance I have ever seen from him.

    There is no character development and we are simply thrown into the middle of a marriage which is ending badly. We never learn anything about them or what their motives are. There is just a back and forth of screaming and pleading until you get tired of the whole film.

    There is comic relief from the guy who plays Heinrich and I don't know if it was intentional or not. His wigging out in the bathroom was very amusing. He was like a Zen-Gay-Kung-Fu-Loving Hannibal Lechter.

    The ending of the film was very confusing. It's not one I would recommend to anyone. The director's commentary is very entertaining. This review is for the 123 minute version.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    OK. SO I read all the reviews, downloaded this movie, and...I don't even know where to start, except to say I don't get why this is a 7.3 out of 10.

    First off, Im glad movies don't start off with running credits anymore, the few reviews I read didn't mention a "creature" but golly-gee, the idiots who made the movie wanted to give that away. I don't know why crediting the "CREATURE MAKER" had to be done in the first 5 minutes of the film, but that was a spoiler alert I cant even top in this review.

    Secondly, this movie is Poorly edited, you jump from scene to scene and you get left with the feeling of blue balls, like they are unfinished scenes. The story is confusing, nothing is explained, like how did this all start? Why is what is happening, happening? None of that is answered.

    Sam Neill, the star of Jurassic Park and creepy guy from Event Horizon, is a good actor, but even his acting is over the top. The lead actress and the guy who plays Heinrich, both ham their roles up at times, especially when she miscarries in the tunnel! WTF is she doing, she is supposed to be writhing in agony I guess, but its just comes off as modern day "twerking"

    The men in this movie are Utterly Weak and Stupid, even Heinrich, who comes off strong ends up portraying weakness,(forget the 2 PI's NEill's character hires to follow her, they are the epitome of weak) Sam Neill's character loves her to the point of insanity, which I can understand the movies point, love is irrational, but come on! Near the end, when he walks in on her with the creature, and finds whats in her fridge, he Still Keeps pining after her, saying, "If I laid down in front of you, would you still walk over me?" and he Does lay down(SPOILER ALERT: and guess what SHE Walks OVER him) At that point I was Cheering for him to die!

    He literally does NOT get it till the very end, and even then he Still doesn't really get it

    The last 5 or so minutes of this movie are Utterly confusing...that is the main problem with the movie, scenes simply do not tie together and make sense. Whatsup with the pink socks guy and the work Sam Neill's character did for him at the very beginning of the movie, does that have something to do w/ her being possessed? I have no clue, its NOT EXPLAINED, but he shows up at the end after everyones dead, hinting that he does, but once again the movie doesn't explain it.

    Shes keeps talking about Faith & Chance, but once again, its not clear if the doppelgangers (the doppelganger teacher of their child Bob, and the, Spoiler Alert: the fact the creature turns into a evil Sam Neill's twin) how are they related to any of that, if they are even related.

    Also, nearly every outside scene on streets, subways and the tunnels in subways, the train ride, there are Literally no people on the streets, anywhere save for the weirdo on the train that takes one of her bananas from her shopping bag.

    I'll agree, this movie starts off innocently, with a break-up of a family and his hunt for the other man and some sort of CLosure, but then it descends into weirdness and gets weirder and weirder by the minute, but your left utterly confused and po'd...the last minute where the kid runs upstairs yelling repeatedly "Dont Open the Door" and then jumps in the tub full of water, is he drowning himself? or trying to hide? and the (good) doppelganger teacher is at the door, with the evil doppelganger Sam Neill right outside, but then their is an earthquake, and shes in a trance or something, not opening the door but staring off into space...roll end credits

    This movie leaves you confused and unsatisfied, hence my blue balls comparison
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A young married couple, Anna(Isabelle Adjani) and Mark(Sam Neill) living in West Berlin split up at Anna's behest for unknown reasons. Mark is left to care for their young son, but becomes increasingly more paranoid that Anna is having an affair, so he hires a private detective to follow her. His fears are soon realized and Anna admits to being more satisfied by her new lover. However when Mark tracks this lover (Heinrich) down, he says their relationship has been over for some time, Mark soon realizes that there is another mysterious lover, but what he finds is more terrifying than he could have dreamed. My first Zulawski film i had been warned was just a little odd, while not the most linear of films to start with, i had no idea where or when the craziness would start or how it would present itself. It begins with a couple being destroyed by a lack of intimacy, paranoia, jealousy and ultimately separation. I must say that this aspect is brilliantly realized by Zulawski with two incredible performances to back it up, i really felt the guilt, the betrayal and the pain for both of them as they spun into self destruction. . Mark soon finds a lover of his own, strangely its his sons teacher Helen, who bears a remarkable resemblance to Anna . As the film evolves Anna becomes ever more manic, as a result, every one she knows seems to come to a bloody end, can anyone survive the mysterious beast that hides in Anna's apartment? I guess there must be many explanations for how and why the film evolves the way it does, my take is that both Mark and Anna invented their respective lovers to compensate for their own failings, of course others may look at it as a skewed version of Invasion of the Body snatchers. Adjani provides the viewer with perhaps THE most manic female performance since Shelley Duvall in The Shining (perhaps even ever), she even makes that performance seem restrained, such is her dedication to her performance that she really does seem possessed. Neill is equally strong, putting in what could be a career best performance. The standout performance for me though was the bizarre and crazy Heinz Bennent who plays uber mannered Heinrich, i was in awe of his every word and movement, he even made me laugh out loud. Zulawski for his part controls things to perfection, his camera is always moving making even mundane scenes seem really interesting. The setting of Berlin before the wall came down is a constant reminder of separation that mirrors the couples plight. Again though i feel this is a film that will benefit from subsequent viewings, i did lose my train of thought towards the end, still though it didn't spoil my overall enjoyment. If there's one over riding memory i'll take from the film, besides its bizarreness, that would be its incredible eroticism, despite the fact there is almost no sex contained within, it left this viewer a little hot under the collar. Before i finish off, its hard not to mention Anna's real lover, but how can one give justice to him, seeing is believing. Its onward and upward with Zulawski for me, next up Diabel.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I'm pretty active on Twitter and over the years have accumulated a lot of "followers" on there that I would consider to be "cinephiles". For those who have never encountered the term, call them amateur film scholars. Some really are film scholars with the degrees to prove it. Some write reviews for blogs and various sites and some are just fans of movie, who have gone far past the typical popular Hollywood pablum to dive into the history and culture of film. Some might call these people "film snobs". In a lot of ways I would consider myself to be one. One of the horror movies that I have seen a lot of these friends tout through the years is POSSESSION and it was with anticipation that I finally was able to find it on TMC and got my chance to watch it.

    I can only say I'm left more than a little disappointed. This is truly the kind of movie that only hardcore "film lovers" would appreciate. It's the sort of movie that's an acquired taste, developed through years of watching similar films and I just didn't have the patience to sift through the layers and find the value in this movie.

    We begin in what seems to be the middle of the story, as the guy from Jurassic Park returns home after years spent in government service to find that his marriage has hit bottom, his wife has been cheating on him and divorce is imminent. In the middle of this rocky relationship is a young child, who displays very little natural action. He is almost an object in the movie, meant only to serve the purpose of becoming another something for this couple to fight over.

    Much of the movie is spent in endless conversation, sometimes between two characters and sometimes with characters just babbling to themselves. There is not a normal person in this entire film. Everyone is neurotic, obsessed and "possessed" by various forces. It becomes an unnerving experience for the viewer after awhile. The wife is falling apart mentally and showing obvious cracks. Her behavior is completely irrational. She screams and shouts, talks nonsense and acts in bizarre ways that tend to grate on the viewer's nerves.

    The husband is reacting in obsessive ways, shown frequently rocking himself back and forth with a blank look on his face. This is carried out to such an extreme that it almost felt like a farce from a FAMILY GUY skit. His behavior is, also, erratic as he tries to cope with this failing marriage. At times, he is the focal point of the plot and the only "normal" thing, but then goes to extremes of behavior even worse than his wife's. Then, we meet the "lover", the wife's boyfriend, who is is as much unhinged as the rest of them, bouncing from an almost flirtatious encounter with the husband, to spouting college philosophy course views on life and love.

    Somehow, this all leads to the wife having a third (second?) affair with something out of a Lovecraft short story, a tentacled, vegetative bloody monster that feeds on human blood. She gives her body, her blood and her lovers to this new monster, who is bedridden and must be brought his dinner by this young woman. None of this is really explained and the director never intends to do so, because it's all some metaphor that we're supposed to think through about the nature of love and the forces that both bring us together and tear us apart.

    I'm all for art in my horror and appreciate a film that has layers for me to tear through, but this movie is too perturbing. By the end point, I want to kill all of them myself just to end their babbling and their drama queen behavior. By the time we get to the end, I no longer even cared what the director was trying to say and just wanted it to be over.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Being a huge fan of bizarre and surreal cinema, I wonder why I waited until a few weeks ago to finally see Andrzej Zulawski's "Possession" (1981), which had , on multiple occasions, been recommended to me by fellow cult-cinema fans as brilliant and absolutely essential. Having finally seen it, I must say that, while the film is definitely worthwhile, I do not quite get the hype it receives from most of my fellow admirers of European cult-cinema. "Possession" is often called a 'love it or hate it' film, but, personally I must say that neither is the case with me. On the one hand, "Possession" is a wonderfully bizarre film which really isn't like anything else, and furthermore an exceptionally shot exercise in fascinating cinematic style. On the other hand, it is - plain and simple - a mess.

    Terriffically set in Berlin (divided by the Berlin Wall), the film is about an... eer... slightly troubled married couple - Mark (Sam Neill) is slowly going out of his mind over his wife Anna (the stunning Isabelle Adjani), who does not merely betray him with a quite sinister lover, but also with someone (or something) else... This is only a very vague description of the first part of "Possession", but, in this case, giving a proper description would mean describing every scene from start to finish (and what would be the point of that?). While I usually LOVE cinematic weirdness (one of my all-time favorite filmmakers being the Chilean/French/Mexican genius Alejandro Jodorowsky), and this one is full of it, the weirdness of "Possession" is too messy at times. Too often does it seem as if director Zulawski simply put together unrelated scenes, just to make the film more bizarre. The cast is great, and the over-acting (from everybody, which was obviously requested by the director) fits the film in this case. However, there are many scenes in which the characters simply grimace and do things like cutting themselves with electric knives for no reason whatsoever. Scenes like these may be shocking or fascinating in a film every now and then, but when large parts of a movie do only consist of barely related weird sequences attached to one another, the weirdness can loose its impact. Still, the film never gets monotonous.

    Technically, "Possession" is a masterwork. Both the settings in Berlin and the cinematography are fascinating. The film is set in West Berlin, and, in many parts, one can actually see the Eastern part over the wall, through windows on one the Western side. This aspect alone makes the film fascinating. Besides its stylistic and cinematographic greatness, "Possession" has many other fascinating aspects. The characters are entirely sinister. As mentioned above, all cast members are extremely over-acting, but, in this case this isn't a bad thing. Especially Sam Neill and Isabella Adjani are great. Neill is a terrific actor and he greatly portrays the maddening despair of a left husband obsessed with his crazed wife. Adjani (who actually plays two roles in this film) must be one of the most stunningly beautiful actresses ever, and she is an equally fantastic actress. Her performance as the ravishing but 'possessed' Anna is magnificent. Heinz Bennert is also very remarkable as her sinister, creepy and somewhat nuts lover, who claims to be a sex-master and still lives with his mother. "Possession" has the reputation of being very gory and perverted, which even landed it on the UK's infamous Video Nasty List (another proof that Film censors are a bunch of fascist morons). Except for one very gross scene, however, the film isn't really exceptionally gory, and the perversity is mostly suggested rather than show.

    Overall, "Possession" certainly is an unforgettable film experience, maybe even a must-see for every true cineaste. Still, I cannot quite see it as the masterpiece that some of my fellow cult-cinema fans seem to regard it. For true masterpieces of bizarre cinema see any film by Alejandro Jodorowsky (especially "El Topo", "The Holy Mountain" or "Santa Sangre"); in case you dig surreal Art-Horror films in which beautiful women have sex with strange monstrosities, I recommend Walerian Borowczyk's "La Bête" (1975) over this one. As far as I am concerned, "Possession" is definitely recommended, but I cannot entirely praise it.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I read an article recently about "the scariest movies you've never seen" and this one was on it. So I sat and watched this movie. The title was the same, the actors were the same, but I'm not sure I saw the same movie as they did. The movie I saw was bizarre beyond belief. Characters go into convulsions for no apparent reason. That this all occurs in an apparently depopulated Berlin (or perhaps some other large eastern European city) is one of the most bizarre things. Then the ending has no connection to the rest of the movie -- again with no explanation. If you like strange European movies that make absolutely no sense, then this is the movie for you. Otherwise avoid at all costs!
  • Pssession, which is most likely supposed to be an allegory of the emotions a bitter divorce can create in people, fails on most levels. I will grant it that it does catch the emotions, to a certain degree, and I can see how some people, particularly those who have experienced it themselves, will find power in this.

    However, despite certain insights, what destroys this is the presentation. From an intellectual step by step analyzes, it could most certainly prove a revelation, but taken as it actually is I can't help shaking my head.

    The performances are flat out disgusting. All the actors seem to do is make odd noises and gurgles, say retarded nonsensical lines and walk and look as if mentally disabled. Most is not even aimed at comedy, though certain aspects most certainly are. The mixture seems utterly displaced.

    To make it perfectly clear - to me it fails no matter what it attempts. It's fails as an emotional allegory, it fails as the moment of zen, it fails as body horror, it fails as nonsensical art-house and it most certainly fails as a comedy. The reason I put out all of these possibilities is because it was so god damn horrible I can't see where it could possibly fit.

    Why make something this bad if you aren't even trying to be funny? Why mix in retarded comic relief lovers? Why walk around in a constant trance? I get the concept that you change as a person and that who you are is destroyed, but when you mix in a ridiculous plot, shoot outs and detectives you have gone in the wrong direction.

    I know this film has gotten a lot of fans over the years and that it will most likely remain a classic for decades to come. I'm happy it made a positive impression on these people and wasn't a complete waste of film - but to me this is one of the worst films ever made.
  • This is awful. I bought this movie a long time ago, after hearing that the original U.S. version was cut by 40 minutes. Sounds good, right? Europeans are more open with sexuality, so it doesn't really come under harsh censorship. I finally watched it last night. One can't even describe how bad this movie is. I know that European horror movies don't always have a completely linear plot structure. I rather enjoyed The Blood-Spattered Bride. This is an entirely different realm. Possession is just a big two hour mess with no real point. Can someone please explain what the hell happened in this movie? I can't even remember the last time i was so disappointed in a movie...I love the work of Sam Neill. I liked everything else I had seen with him in it. This could possibly be the worst movie I have ever seen.
  • Back in the days, directors like Andrzej Zulawski (who also wrote the story and screenplay) were still able to experiment and this movie is one of those experiments. Unfortunately today it no longer holds it's power. It just seems to be strange, awkward, annoying, and presumptuous.

    Both of the main actors are strong in their characters and roles. Sam Neill is Mark, who comes back to his wife after being away for months on work. He returns to find things have changed. His wife has been having an affair and now wants a divorce while seeming to be in the grip of a mental breakdown. This sets Mark on his own course of mental illness and Neill does a good job of portraying anxiety and depression.

    Isabelle Adjani as Marks wife Anna is, for the most part, brilliant at portraying her character's breakdown. She rushes about agitated, unable to complete even one simple task.

    Though the actors do exemplary jobs it's Zulawski that makes their illnesses a weakness to the film by overplaying them. There is just too much of them "spazzing" (Sorry for not being PC but when you watch the film you may forgive me) out to create a relatable atmosphere.

    Then with the unveiling of Anna's lover, the truly unbelievable self- righteous and pompous Heinrich, superbly over-acted by Heinz Bennent, that the film falls further into implausibility.

    The only realistic anchors in the film are the secondary characters, such as Heinrich's mother played with feeling by Johanna Hofer and Anna's friend Margit Carstensen portrayed by Margit Gluckmeister.

    Having said that, Zulawski does an impressive job of creating an unease through all the insanity. You get the feeling that there's something more, something darker, which is bothering Anna and Mark. When this is finally revealed the revelation is startling and is the reason why this was originally banned. It also shows why Carlo Rambaldi was one of the great special FX artists.

    This is a long two hours and four minutes. There are sequences that didn't need to be so long, and others that didn't even need to be in at all. Had this been at least fifteen to thirty minutes shorter with tighter direction, it may have lasted the time and be relevant today as it was then.

    I enjoyed parts of this film and loathed others. Because I didn't love any part of the film I cannot recommend for people to view. There are better wastes of time out there.
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