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Possession (1981)

Cast: Isabelle Adjani, Isabelle Adjani, Sam Neill, more...
Director: Andrzej Zulawski, Andrzej Zulawski
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Genre: Cult, Supernatural/Occult, Experimental/Avant-Garde
Running Time: 123 min.
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Usually misattributed to the horror genre, this challenging and highly unusual drama stars Isabelle Adjani as a young woman who forsakes her husband (Sam Neill) and her lover (Heinz Bennent) for a bizarre, tentacled creature that she keeps in a run-down Berlin apartment. In the beginning, her husband knows nothing about the monster and sincerely believes that his wife is insane. He has her tailed by private detectives, whom she kills and feeds to the creature. Still unaware of what has happened, the husband contends with the reserved and inadvertently seductive presence of his wife's look-alike (also played by Adjani), a schoolteacher who frequently comes to tutor his son while his wife is away. Though tempted by her quiet goodness and beauty, he is still passionately in love with his wife and even after he finds out about the murders, he stays by her side and helps her conceal her crimes. Filmed amidst the oppressive backdrop of the Berlin Wall by the expatriate Polish director Andrzej Zulawski (who was unable to work in his homeland after too many clashes with the authorities), the picture is so relentlessly intense and so deliberately esoteric, that most viewers would find it too hard to connect with. Still its symbolism, its unbridled and flashy directorial style, and the tour de force performance by Isabelle Adjani earned this unique tale a cult following in Europe. The version originally released in the U.S. had 45 minutes chopped out; in this form, it is barely comprehensible and looks like a cheap, gory feast. ~ Yuri German, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

fear, lust, revulsion, confusion by chaosmind October 30, 2006 - 12:12 PM PST
in terms of feel, put Tarkovski's Solaris and the original Amityville Horror in a blender and you've got Possession.

A sick, gritty yet impressionistic psychological horror film, the nonlinear storytelling is maddeningly opaque. There is much about the film that reminds me of the feel of D'Ario Argento's Susperia. more sexual, perhaps. there's a nice little moment which alludes to fellating someone on the cross. more for fans of Cronenberg and Lynch than Spielberg and Michael Bay.


hands desperately fumbling at the crotch whilst staring at Jesus, hands wrestling with each other like maddened tentacles, hands gripping the knife stabbing at the lover who is not the Devil...

a portrait of developing madness cannot be told in sane fashion. psychological and physiological grotesqueries abound... tales of dying dogs, misspent confessions, milk from the mouth and pulpy bloody soup from the crotch during a hysterically screaming miscarriage... a Lovecraftian Yog-Sotthoth slimy lover in the bed...

lights are turned on and off for no reason other than to plunge the theatre into a strobe light effect, clothes and bodies are put into the refrigerator, people get naked. sex with aliens.

"Stay there at the corner. Bleed for awhile."

there is much of the cruelty and dirty meanness felt in Rosemary's Baby and The Sentinnel (or Last House on the Left, for that matter) but more surreal, like Eraserhead. Even more than From Beyond or John Carpenter's sublimely dark The Mouth Of Madness, this film captures the essence of H.P. Lovecraft's notion "to look on it was to go insane."

"There are corpses in there, at least two bodies. I thought she was pulling my leg, but no, there's blood!"

sublime seventies cinematography (yes, i know it came out in '81), cooler colors except for the blood, the camera is never at rest. sometimes subtle push-ins, crazy handheld work, some delightful reverse-pans... this could have been lensed by Haskell Wexler on a Charlie Manson bad LSD trip.

"...that great, incomprehensible god you reach through FUCKING!"


This is not a normal film. Sam Neill and Isabelle Adjani star.

Don't read the packaging by PKoene November 12, 2003 - 11:07 AM PST
3 out of 3 members found this review helpful
Intense, gripping performances by both lead actors. Some nice 1980's Euro-political tidbits for those of us who remeber the Cold War. Weird and sometimes Germans. I wished I hadn't read anything about the movie before watching it. Definitely a good midnighter.

Wait a minute... by larbeck May 21, 2003 - 1:15 PM PDT
7 out of 7 members found this review helpful
...this Women certainly did NOT kill any Giant Squid. I don't want to give it away, but to say when happens is surreal, so creepy, and erotic as hell. And this "Squid" is so much more than that.

Highly Recommended - watch it after midnight with all of the lights off except your beloved CRT. Wear a robe so you will not get arrested for exposure when you go running screaming down the street afterwards.

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GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 6.64)
154 Votes
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