Lust, jealousy, rage, paranoia, repression and a fierce political message manifest themselves in Andrzej Żuławski’s Cold War body horror masterpiece.
In West Berlin, Mark (Sam Neill) returns home to find that his wife Anna (Isabelle Adjani) is leaving him. The enraged Mark begins a series of violent confrontations with Anna, who keeps returning to visit their young son.
He only cools when he meets Bob’s teacher, who is the spitting image of his wife. Meanwhile, in a grimy apartment by the Wall, the object of Anna’s affections is growing.
Now recovered from its arbitrarily assigned Video Nasty status, Possession is one of those rare and remarkable films that maintains its fevered pitch throughout without it ever feeling forced. For all the heightened reality, constant movement and hysteria, it’s amazing how controlled Possession feels.
The sexual and emotional horror of the film takes place in a city that has been torn in two and where the threat of invasive evil is constantly bubbling just below the surface.
Hypnotic camerawork aside, Neill and Adjani are key to the film’s success. The two characters veer between need and revulsion with incredible grace. Mark pushes and needles at Anna, luxuriating in his vision of her disgusting perversion while begging her to return to her submissive place as wife and mother.
Anna, meanwhile, is a writhing sea of urges and perpetually on the verge of convulsion, as though the creature she loves is living inside her and trying to get out. We don’t side with either character; both are as monstrous as each other.
The scene in the U-Bahn tunnel that, with the exception of Anna’s tentacled lover, is Possession’s most famous sequence, has lost none of its power. Adjani hurls herself from wall to wall as the character begins to miscarry an unknown progeny. As she flails and howls, the emotional range that the actress is able to convey is astounding.
Much like the film itself, Adjani’s outstanding performance continues to surprise, seduce and stun.