Possession

Film , Fantasy
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 out of 5 stars
(4 user reviews)
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It’s a strong contender for the most distressing, astonishing, heart-stopping scene in the history of horror cinema: Isabelle Adjani runs riot in the corridors of the Berlin U-bahn, seeming, as the film’s title suggests, completely possessed, a dervish of unrestrained emotion and pure sexual terror – at which point the blood, slime and pus start pouring from her ears. 

In the making-of documentary accompanying this long-awaited, thankfully uncut reissue of Polish director Andrzej Zulawski’s astounding, apocalyptic 1981 marital psychodrama, the director discusses this most infamous scene: ‘I told Adjani,’ he says frankly, ‘to fuck the air.’ 

The crafty double meaning in its title gives some clue as to what to expect from ‘Possession’: yes, it’s a horror movie, but it’s also an intimate, intelligent drama about people, about their hold over one another. Adjani’s marriage to Sam Neill is imploding: secret love affairs come to light, harsh words are spoken and screamed, and eventually the knives come out. But that’s only half the story: we won’t give away what Adjani is hiding in her secret bolthole by the Wall, suffice to say that its revelation – and the increasing hysteria which follows – elevate ‘Possession’ from a punishing fever-pitch psychological thriller to something far more bizarre and entirely singular. 

There are plenty of movies which seem to have been made by madmen. ‘Possession’ may be the only film in existence which is itself mad: unpredictable, horrific, its moments of terrifying lucidity only serving to highlight the staggering derangement at its core. Extreme but essential viewing

Release details

Duration: 127 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Andrzej Zulawski
Screenwriter: Frederic Tuten, Andrzej Zulawski
Cast: Margit Carstensen
Sam Neill
Isabelle Adjani
Heinz Bennent
Carl Duering
Johanna Hofer
Shaun Lawton

Average User Rating

5 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|4
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WK

This film is amazing. I saw it last night for the first time and am still reeling. An extraordinary personal and political statement. It does to me what great art of any kind will do: it speaks to me in what seems to be a secret language about me and the world I live in that at the same time I feel compelled to try and decipher and share with everybody. There is plenty of logic. Like the best horror you realise that the most truly horrific elements of the film are the more subtle ideas being communicated beyond the apparently extreme scenes in the film. For me the extremity is not gratuitous: harrowing, terrifying and heartbreaking yes but not extreme for extreme's sake at all. The honest and unflinching examination of the differences between the sexes and the subtlety of the political message called to mind The Unbearable Lightness Of Being. I regretted that my wife wasn't there to see it too and look forward to discussing this film with her once she has. Highly recommended

WK

This film is amazing. I saw it last night for the first time and am still reeling. An extraordinary personal and political statement. It does to me what great art of any kind will do: it speaks to me in what seems to be a secret language about me and the world I live in that at the same time I feel compelled to try and decipher and share with everybody. There is plenty of logic. Like the best horror you realise that the most truly horrific elements of the film are the more subtle ideas being communicated beyond the apparently extreme scenes in the film. For me the extremity is not gratuitous: harrowing, terrifying and heartbreaking yes but not extreme for extreme's sake at all. The honest and unflinching examination of the differences between the sexes and the subtlety of the political message called to mind The Unbearable Lightness Of Being. I regretted that my wife wasn't there to see it too and look forward to discussing this film with her once she has. Highly recommended