I have a feeling that most are accustomed to the standard horror formula so a lot of you may dismiss this film as pretentious Eurotrash. If you’re willing to expand your imagination and open your mind to a neurotic and turbulent ride to the depths of emotion, then you will love this movie but you wont emerge as the same person. It’s interesting that the film is around the cold war era making it so dark, grim, depressing, and it’s beautifully framed and lit. The set pieces are stomach churning; Images of drowning children, that WHAT THE FUCK miscarriage moment in the subway, self-mutilation, and a freaky deaky sex scene. I love this film. I love every gut wrenching, hysterical, harum scarum minute of it. In an interview feature included with the recent UK DVD release of Possession, director Zulawski complains about how the film was promoted in the US. In his opinion, the film is not a horror movie and should never be discussed as such. He says the American distributors were “idiots” trying to market and promote this as a horror film. Consequently, some conversions leave viewers bewildered, as characters words don’t appear to have anything to do with the scene. As for the doppelgangers, I like to think they are the synthetic versions of each character that the government or society’s values would have them become. In many ways this film is an exploration of the internal panorama of director Zulawski at that moment. His divorce from his wife and being exiled by his beloved homeland played major roles in this film. I like to think of it as Polanski meets Cronenberg and drives you mad. The music is composed by Andrzej Korzynski and he produced a score that fits perfectly with the mood.
The film does leave some open questions…for me any way. Like masturbating to the image of Christ or was she just begging for help? It certainly seemed like she was moaning to Jesus on a Cross. Then again I could be wrong. Another question, you would think that these creatures aren’t real and that they are just the manifestations of Anna’s deranged mind but other people seem to see these monsters as something completely different. It has become quite controversial over the disturbing images involving children. When Sam Neill’s doppelganger is going to meet the girl, who is Adjani doppelganger representing the beginning of a new relationship, the child can´t stand it and he begs:”No…don’t open the door…no…” What he really means is “please, don’t mess around again…let me live in peace.” Then he commits suicide. That’s my way of looking at it at least. And what of this poor girl Adjani torments while teaching dance class? The combination of the physical contact between the two women, the extreme close-up and the rising moans makes the shot feel strangely pornographic. Which creeped me out a little.
Now, why was this banned? The board spent a lot of time watching this films and taking notes. If you account for everything going wrong with this film it only makes sense to me that it was banned. First of all, you have Sam Neil quoting that God is a disease. The board consists of God fearing people and this is something they do not want children, or even adults hearing. Then we have the issue of adultery. We have what seems like ‘possession’ and a woman having a miscarriage (which is quite gruesome) in a subway. We see the woman having sex with creatures that have tentacles..the sex scene is pretty explicit. Lastly, we have a child that commits suicide. It doesn’t have to be all about gore. It’s the subject matter.
The three main actors in the film are not over-acting in the traditional sense. I see so many people screaming all over the internet about how Sam Neil is a horrible actor and this film is a perfect example of how shitty he is. WRONG! Zulawski got exactly the performances he wanted from his actors. There is a certain theatricality to the whole thing that should not be overlooked. If you are laughing, you are not getting it. Only the characters going through severe emotional turmoil behave the way they do. All other characters in the movie are relatively calm. Sam Neil never lets us down. I have mixed feelings on Isabelle Adjani’s performance. So many times I wanted to stop the film because she got on my last nerve with her over the top constant screaming. GOD MAKE HER STOP! But then again it’s better that it’s over the top because of the subject matter at hand. Mark and Anna are shouting at each other by the opening five minutes. After the opening ten they are fighting in public. Within half an hour they are physically beating each other with unrestrained ferocity. The tension and electricity of the performances is literally inhuman, and it becomes quickly obvious that we are not really watching ‘realistic’ acting, but something far more extreme. As for Heinrich (Heinze Bennet,) I was confused by his performance. The director designed him based on every quality in a man he disliked. He almost always has his shirts open to reveal his chest and runs his hands over himself as he moves about in a manner reminiscent of bad interpretive dance. At times, this character did get on my nerves.
Interesting facts thanks to IMDB: The film originally appeared on the DPP 72 list of UK video nasties. It was banned but never prosecuted, and was eventually passed uncut by the BBFC in 1999. Although co-produced by a German Company and shot in Berlin, the Film itself hasn’t been released in Germany until late 2009. Isabelle Adjani told a French magazine that it took her several years to get over playing Anna. She also said that she’d never take on a similar role. There are rumors that Adjani tried to commit suicide. When she finally saw the film, she was horrified at the way she was portrayed in the film or how she looked on film in this particular role and in a very diva-like manner cut her wrists on a machine that could barely cut paper. This is what the director said so it has to be true. I honestly cannot blame her for being upset about her role in this film. It’s pretty effective. She did win some awards for her performance however.
As some have asked – the scene with the eyeballs in the palms of Adjani’s hands does only appear in the heavily cut and reassembled US-Cut of the movie – then released on VHS by Vestron Pictures. There are some scenes (sometimes different angles) that don’t appear in the exact same form in the Original Cut.
Anna: I can’t exist by myself because I’m afraid of myself, because I’m the maker of my own evil.
Mark: You look ugly. You’ve hardened. For the first time, you look vulgar to me.
Anna: What I miscarried there was sister Faith, and what was left is sister Chance. So I had to take care of my faith to protect it.