To begin with, this is an Art Film. Really. We're not talking about some hack director with a low budget and a "just pay me" attitude here. Zulawski, though dangerous enough to be banned in his own country, was, and is, an artist with a vision. What that vision is, however, is twisted and nightmarish and changes almost constantly. It's hard to truly warm up to Possession or its characters even in its most engrossing. However, that might just be a good thing, when you consider just what the eff-you-see-kay is happening on that silver screen.
Possession starts as a cold, domestic drama about a businessman (Sam Neill's Mark) returning from a long assignment, uncertain about how he will be greeted by his family. His son Bob (Michael Hogben) warms up to him pretty quickly, but his super-hot and oft-naked wife Anna (Isabelle Adjani) isn't feeling the old Mark spark, even after their bout of cold, mechanical sex.
Anna soon admits to having an affair with a really, really weird German dude named Heinrich (Heinz Bennent) and the news, followed by her prompt departure threatens to tear the family apart. Mark goes through all kinds of strange self-purging and admonishment by Anna's best friend Margit Gluckmeister (Margit Carstensen), not to mention strange fights with the sporadic Anna and a constantly changing relationship with Bob.
It's right about the same time Heinrich reveals that Anna is cheating on him too that we realize that virtually every character is just as confused as the audience is. Naturally, Mark hires a private detective, played by Carl Duering, who finally discovers at least a piece of what is behind all this.
And that's when a weird movie goes completely off the deep end into a tapestry of the surreal which makes The Wall look like Dusty's Treehouse! This is where a divorce movie turns into a horrific thriller about doppelgangers, conspiracies, super-nature and one strange, multi-tentacled being from the Cthulu family.
The question of just what this thing is, how it is involved with this family and perhaps the job Mark just came off of, not to mention its relationship with God, is peppered all over the incredibly peculiar last half of this film! There are incredible freak outs from virtually all characters. Characters who seem to get along great with other characters end up killing each other, characters who seem to truly hate each other end up in bed together. There is a good deal of nudity, some of which actually features beautiful women like Adjani. Often the situations surrounding these things end up ruining the heat of the moment. It all rumbles up to a confusing, odd and interesting ending that neither makes the viewer feel terribly good, nor explains a whole hell of a lot. That which is spelled out leads to more questions, of course.
Although this film is unusual to the point of being inaccessible, Zulawski manages to always appear to know what he's doing, even when the audience definitely doesn't. This gives the impression that even when what is transpiring onscreen makes about 23.7% of ZERO SENSE, there is a certain logic to everything, even if only in the mind of the writer/ director. The impression may be given that watching this film a few more times might cause a lot more to become clear, however, the film is just so damned unpleasant at every step, there aren't all that many out there who are going to go for repeat viewings (at least, not in short succession).
The method in this madness is, of course, good film making, and Zulawski does achieve an artistic and entrancingly beautiful look to this film, even, and especially, when the subject matter is decidedly ugly. Contrast is the name of the game here. Further, the methodical madness is aided by no less a special effects team than Carlo Rambaldi, Daniel Braunschweig and Charles-Henri Assola! There has scarcely ever been such a pretty way to see such horrible things.
Taking into consideration both the Yin and the Yang of this (and everything in between), we're left with a pretty good, but very confusing and alternately enthralling and nauseating piece. Is this what Zulawski intended? Hey, far be it from me to pretend what's going on in the mind of Andrzej! I've seen it twice already and I still probably only get a percentage of it. One thing is for sure, its inclusion on the Video Nasty list has ensured its inclusion in the history books and this one will be watched by, at least, the curious. Those who got nauseous during Alien and those who expect every one of their movies to be both sensible and plausible without a depth of research should apply elsewhere... but if you're one of those guys who gets every joke on The Venture Bros., this one might be for you. Three StarFIsH out of Five for Possession, the domestic drama cum erotic cephalopod horror mystery. How often do writers get to use sentences like that one? Yep, Andrzej Zulawski is nothing if not unique. Now wave at me with all eight arms, because I'll see you in the next reel.
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