Ever thought Sam Neill’s performances in ‘Event Horizon’ and ‘In The Mouth of Madness’ were too subtle and underplayed? Ever wondered what it would be like if ‘High Fidelity’ was directed by David Cronenberg? Ever watched a Terrence Malick or Ingmar Bergman meditation on the disintegration of a relationship but also wanted to see a woman fuck a blood-covered octopus too? Then Andrzej Żuławski’s 1981 ‘Possession’ is the film for you!

Set in early 80s West Berlin, ‘Possession’ tells the tale of Sam Neill and his wife, played brilliantly by Isabelle Adjani, as they struggle to hold onto their sanity as infidelity rips and mauls their marriage apart. He suspects her of having an affair with a pretentious, arty guy, has her followed and jealousy ensues. And that’s pretty much it… apart from the body-horror, shrieking existential terror, tentacle sex, the infinite darkness made flesh, liberal politics and the film cranking up its tension to such unbearable levels that you want to tear your own skin off. And that’s pretty much all I want to say about Possession because its always best to discover this films delights for yourself… fresh… like just out the refrigerator. And yes, I do mean that refrigerator. Anyway, it’s no surprise to say the film is about possession. Whether its sexual possession, psychological or the possession of a state over its own people.

Now it could be easy to describe this film as Cronenberg (psychosis made flesh) meets Lars Von Trier (married couples quoting lines to each other such as “God is a disease.”) and while that’s totally true it also reminded me of William Freidkin’s Bug with its cooker pressure manic intensity and paranoia, and a sort of more intelligent, politically inverted version of Brian Yuzna’s Society. But Possession is really a unique experience all of itself. The unease starts in Żuławski’s analysis of married life, relationships and the potential emotional violence that very often is simmering underneath any two beings in close proximity with each other. Are you married? Have you ever thought of murdering your significant other? Again, this is the film for you. The horror then begins to take shape as that emotional violence starts to physically self-manifest. And to be technical, it’s most certainly not an octopus she has sex with but something more Lovercraftian in tone.

This is a fantastic film. Truly unsettling, thought provoking, pessimistic (or is it?!), stomach-churning and nerve-jangling. The directing and camerawork are nothing less than extraordinary at times. The comment about this being almost Terrence Malick like at times was not just a cheap gag as there are sequences where a wide-angle steady cam will follow the husband and wife throughout their apartment in an almost To The Wonder like way. The only real difference is to give a nightmare rather than a dream-like feel. But the technical panache is just as impressive. And even though most people praise Isabelle Adjani’s performance in this, and rightly so, for me its Sam Neill who almost steals the show, delivering one of the most utterly insane performances I’ve seen in ages. It’s great.

But the film isn’t perfect. Żuławski wrote this film after breaking up with his wife and leaving his native Poland and both these themes are what drive this film and his anger and bitterness towards both can become slightly grating. Then towards the end of the movie one of these themes comes heavily to the fore and for me, it was the less interesting one (apparently this film was criticised by the far left on release and whilst that might seem like a crazy thing to think about an octopus fuck-fest movie there was a point near the end of Possession when for a split-second I thought “Hang on! Is this actually a reactionary, bourgeoisie tract?!” Of course the film isn’t in anyway whatsoever, its simply a heart-felt liberal cry against insidious control along with a whole host of other themes, but with an ending that’s maybe a little too on the nose and leaving slightly less room for personal interpretation as well as a sort of “Oh, so that’s what its all been about” shrug. Unlike the octopus I was left slightly underwhelmed at the climax).

But this is nit-picking. I adore ‘Possession’ and for any film to have you thinking about all the above issues, especially one that is known as the “octopus sex movie”, is a blast. It’s bizarre, insane and easily one of the most genuinely intelligent horror movies I have ever seen. This film has substance… albeit with most of it splashed about all over the floor as it gushes out of a screaming woman’s body.

Visit article here.

Share This