Possession (1981) - 9/10
Mark (Sam Neill, a very young Sam Neill) and Anna (Isabelle Adjani) are having marital problems. That’s only one part of this crazy rollercoaster, but it’s where we start and it’s the catalyst for what’s to come. Mark is something of an obsessive and when things get frosty with Anna, he starts searching the couples apartment near the wall in Berlin. So far, so standard domestic discomfort. To be honest this side of the story would be enough. Shot in the stark East Germany of the Cold War. The camera lingers and circles around it’s subjects as they deliver overblown heavily scripted drama one minute, followed by acts of uncomfortable chaos. Chaos that Neill in particular does very well as he struggles to cope with the separation, but to be fair Adjani is every bit his equal as things quickly come apart at the seams. It’s intense. Very very intense. Running much like a play on a sparse stage, it’s all about the raw emotion of a family breaking up. Marks inability to accept it, to lose control of his world. But it’s increasingly obvious that as Mark is having his issues, Anna’s are all the more severe. It’s aggressive and violent. Disturbing and confusing. With an excellent supporting cast. Most notable Heinrich (Heinz Bennent) Anna’s new pretentious lover… who lives in an amazing apartment and is quite nifty with balletic martial arts. The focus though remains on the increasingly deranged couple at the core. If Possession isn’t brilliant in its opening act (it is) whats to come is unexpected and spectacular. Take all the dramatic tension of the first half and dial it all the way up for the second. It’s a wild ride with blooded otherworldly creatures writhing on squalid beds, theoretical riddles and Anna’s video nasty manifestations. Which is captivating and terrifying to watch. You’d struggle to find more visceral cinema anywhere. The effects truly shocking until like many of the red paint horrors of the era. It’s Lynch and Argento rolled into one and I suspect an inspiration to both. There’s a lot going on. I know I’ve missed half of it on one viewing, this is most certainly one to revisit. It’s not for everyone I fear with several scenes of pure nightmare fuel, but I’m enthralled and need to find out more about director Andrzej Zulawski and the making of this monster. I’m still a little too confused to declare it a masterpiece worthy of full marks, but even still it’s clearly an amazing piece of cinema by any yardstick. Great, but enter at your own risk.