Sep 8, 2010


 Have you ever stumbled upon a film that entranced you, not just with the plot progression or stellar casting, but with a tale of murmuring madness? Going into Possession with the knowledge only of a feminine hatred uprising, I concluded that this film was to chronicle a break-up and how right I was. Directed in the eye of the storm, Andrzej Żuławski continues his (unknown to me) cosmically surreal ascension into philosophical tripe masked with a "blasphemous" swipe to the construct of puritanism - all in the span of his own terribly messy divorce! As Infinite Jester would spread it, "Isn't Possession the perfect break-up movie?" This continues my autumn habit of not reading a synopsis and indulging tastes with a blindfold, lucky for me that Possession breaks tides in its berserk ambiguity. As regarded by a select group of people who can stomach the events and forgo an unnecessary criticism for something that transcends a physical manifestation of the supernatural, Possession was an arthouse classic destined for the guillotine.

 First thing I'd like to bring up and discuss is Anna's (Isabelle Adjani) role throughout Possession as the sole agitator and let's not even bring to surface the intentions of the films title. Starting out, Mark (Sam Neill) is in a meeting with his previous employers and resigning against their wishes to return home to his wife and son in Berlin. Upon arriving, Mark discovers a certain air around Anna; she's leaving him with mention unearthing of a German dandy she has been sleeping with, name of Heinrich. Not to concern oneself with dispelling the great treasures this film has to offer, Mark gradually exorcises his pedantic nature in turn for a more primal and instinctual defensive to better suit the fluctuating needs and desires of his precious whore. Turn after turn, the opposition proves fierce and we are graced with what might be the sole continuum of the body horror filmic turn and a film that shields its own misogynistic(?) claims in a sometimes muddled allegory towards marital bliss and lack thereof. With the familiarity of heart break and spousal abandonment, it's safe to assume that Żuławski not only played his part of concerning husband but also that Possession also treads the boards of a medium for his anguish and rage, something I am only too familiar with, which is what most of you men can agree with me on.

Possession is a fright. I found myself genuinely disturbed and a slimy ooze creeping down my back during the subway scene of miscarriage interpretive dance. It's ultimately at this point where the thin line between reality and fictional prurience becomes blurred and shuffled over; a worthy conflict. As the title so reads, Possession takes on a tale of a domicile possession. It's very unclear whether or not an existing presence other than menstruation possessed Anna to do the deeds she did. Further highlighting the excuses at work, the masquerade of feminine blood-lust, Isabelle Adjani is reported to have attempted suicide after seeing the finished product of Possession, as told by the director himself in the DVD audio commentary. Is Anna really such a distant and unrelenting character or is Isabelle Adjani just another woman afflicted with the possible parasite of ladyhood? As we continue this primordial descent into tactical manipulation at the hands of "Barbara" and other such succubi, Possession points out a question only homosexuals ever ask - " Is it really worth it? "

To retain previous discussion towards the earlier events of the film, I'd like to point out the technical achievements of Andrzej Żuławski and his sweeping throes of woeful congregation. The camerawork featured in Possession recounts a trait that seems entirely extraterrestrial - camera work based on continuity. Whether or not the recurring shots of twisted and voyeuristic embrace actually pose as an accelerator to the many thoughts and theories lay jumbled in the mess is another situation and topic that is overthrown by the sheer velocity of which Possession strikes. A frequent meandering of broadcasting insatiable images, Żuławski features many scenes in which his compelling nature of filming isolates the subjects from settings temporarily leaving me bewildered and aroused. Playing coy and innocent, I'd also like to point out the marvelous score collected by Andrzej Korzynski, a man proven genius that pains me that I've never heard of his work sooner. His cloying and clouding of playground instrumentals ripples through subspheres of what can only be intermittently described as carny organs and dandy flutes. While I agree wholeheartedly that specific temperatures of films aren't made for everyone, I have deemed it impossible not to appreciate the remarkable technical achievement in which Żuławski has secured permanently.

I mentioned misogyny and you guffawed. Possession formally accepts all of the traits and habitual rituals of the female kind and precociously envies the freedom they have to look stupid and not be judged by their effervescent taste in shoes and luxuries. During many scenes of Mark wading through Anna's insecurities, he chivalrously attempts to meet in the middle to discuss what could come. Mark tells her that they can work it out while she squirms and resists his passes for emotional convergence. Once her defensive stature and hysterics withdraw from sheer amount of mutilated use, she sleeps easy in their bed as they both lay naked, secured with a nice and calming sheet only for Żuławski to implement a flip psychosis trick on the viewer in which the symmetrical shape of the room and the exiting furniture flips suddenly to present his empty bed with a note from his dearly departed wife. Alas, Mark. There is no saving the wretch now. Enter scene of subway corridors ghostlike in filming. Anna struts through these smooth-cold tiled walls carrying a bag of groceries with a sadistic and sprawled grin of regalement. The actions of Anna soon spiral into a blistering nothingness in what seems to take an infinite amount of time for her "possession" to fully take place. As she whips her groceries into a wall and is showered with goods and services, she begins screaming uncontrollably - writhing and convulsing which brings to light the earlier scenes of high-velocity kitchenware in one of our couples many fights. And to think that this notorious subway scene was universally set in our same world with many of mans own inventions, machinery and otherworldly oddities,   . . . can they really coexist?

Accent so thick and dementia so bloomed, it's as if Anna were communicating in a form of tongues. Through the "misogyny", through the shroud of cinema prose, it becomes adamantly clear that this film is the most brave, inventive, and conniving of all "possession" films as it deals with a very close-to-home approach of married life and to think I just recommended this film to a lady who has been recently married. A film with such a title defies all paranormal ties except for brief instances of dubious measure on behalf of the stricken and old-age Kali Yuga in which man suffers for his sins and to be controlled by women, which happens on so many occasions within the teasingly-heretic film of Possession. Relapsing back, Possession is a film that cannot be disregarded as anything and especially not as a supernatural reflection of the nuclear family. By the last half-an-hour mark it becomes unclear that if the "possession", so to speak, is a singular occurrence or a dual possession. The belligerent way in which Żuławski captures the going-ons prevents us from allowing such meticulous ideas to become apparent. The scene involving the sacrilegious miscarriage could lay waste to many theories revolving around the film but alas, another director whose own esoteric mindplay is a manipulating game even to us, his devoted audience.

Possession is one of the few films generally regarded as a "mindfuck" that I feel I could revisit over and over again. From the mysteries of the Jewish fellow with the pink socks to the entirely audacious ending with the self-destructive nature of a son who has seen more than we are let on to (given the previous story development of him screaming in his sleep, stammering for his mother), Possession is a film that can be enjoyed regardless of the deceitful and depressing nature of this handicam heartbreak. Even the fate of prissy-Tantric boy Heinrich can be traced back to the cut/copy traits of the now-infamous stylizing of black widows. Did he really witness a creature in which Cronenberg is probably idling over himself for not imagining it first, or was that just a realization of his "loved one's" real gutter instincts? Hedonism is dually explained earlier in the film but is actually manifested upon later with what can only be uttered as "Naked Lunch...?" near the ending of the film. It's at this point where Possession skydives into marital imperfections and a pre-nuclear Bonnie and Clyde tale of monstrous, lustful appetites and double standards as to how one woman envisions how her husband should be, darkened pupils and all. Possession is astoundingly one of those films where you hold tight, let your mind flood, sensors buckles, and try to scramble your way out of this erratic yet brilliant masterpiece with all your previous morals intact. Good luck.



jervaise brooke hamster said...

I want to bugger Isabelle Adjani (as she was in 1973 when she was 18, not as she is now obviously).

665+1 said...

Fucking bra-VO, mAQ- this is the first review I've come across that really gets to the heart of this flick. I was curious how you'd go about this one, but you completely nailed it. Furthermore, Sam Neill has always been the man, but goddamn is he awesome in this or what? Adjani will get most of the praise (and deservedly so, she is female incarnate in this one), but seeing Neill so young and alternately suave and desperate, scary and pathetic was a treat.

That Film Enthusiast said...

"Don't open! Don't open! Don't open!"
- Best line in the film.

Anonymous said...

adorei ver a belissima e talentosa Isabelle nesse filme tenebroso e interessante! ela tá muito linda e adorei a cena dela em que ela vai pagar um boquete caprichado no cara! ela é bem safada! Marcos Punch.

Fox said...

Excellent piece, mAQ! Also love the new site design. Well, "new" to me. I haven't been around in awhile. I'm glad to see you and TyE are still going strong!

Now I'm on my way down to catch up on y'alls writing.

With love,

Soiled Sinema said...

I'm glad to see you return, Fox. Thanks and I hope to see you writing soon as well!


docweasel said...

I haven't seen this point made elsewhere, and googling Andrzej Korzynski, the composer of the soundtrack of Possession and LOTR, but listen to the soundtrack almost exactly 1 hour in, where Adjani is confronting the guy in the hall before he sees the tentacle beast and she assaults him, covering him with milk. It's also played during the parking garage freakout scene when Adjani is miscarrying the monster's brood, but she's making such a racket you can't hear it very well.

There is a haunting musical cue, played on solo piano with little, if any accompaniment. It states several times, then restates a 4th up (a common trope in classical and pop music, all 3 chord blues is based upon it).

To my ears, it sounds almost identical to the main "dark" theme to LOTR (not the one that is ripped off of the melody to "Sing, Sweet Nightengale", the more minor sounding one).

I couldn't find this point anywhere else. I think Andrzej Korzynski should sue, I've certainly heard of much thinner cases winning, at least a settlement, and since LOTR made billions from the movie and ancillary merchandizing, they can well afford it, I'd guess.

Anonymous said...

Great film! Nothing is gratuitous here, you can tell this is an independent film as it is as radical as imaginative. Ana's character is superb (even though this was an idea and a film made by males as usual) it has great depth and strays from stereotypical female traits portrayed in cinema. You can love or hate her or get so compelled to get in her head that you know she has captivated us as an audience,that is a great female role. I have watched it lots of times and I am planning on watching it a lot more