DIRECTOR Andrzej Zulawski WRITER Andrzej Zulawski; Frederic Tuten (adaptation and dialogue) STARS Isabelle Adjani; Sam Neill; Margit Carstensen DVD & BLU-RAY 29 July
Stark, exhilarating and utterly lacking in compromise, it is a pleasure to see 1981’s Possession make it to Blu-ray. Andrzej Zulawski’s film may be one of the less obviously extreme of the Video Nasties, yet it is an emotionally brutal watch, and an excellent package here from Second Sight brings a crisp transfer and booming sound that complements Isabelle Adjani’s wild performance to make for even more impact. The Night the Screaming Stops, indeed…
Captivating from the off, this is a film that is all about attention to detail, right down to the ruler-straight line between Anna and Mark as they lie on very obviously separate pillows, and split-room perspective highlighting the distance between them. These early scenes, stark, cheerless, complement the helplessness of the couple’s situation, as their relationship begins to fall apart. Immediately followed by a fluid camera as we join Mark’s journey, it is clear that Zulawski means to play with the viewer.
This he does beautifully, Possession‘s complexity applying its eponymy in a multi-level strategy that applies to not only every single one of its characters, but extends to the viewer. The edit between the aforementioned static shots and fluidity is intentionally misleading, as the madness continues to elevate. Indeed, Zulawski employs as much technique as possible — some attempts to include light in the emphasis are a little crude, but this was 1981, after all — to unsettle us. When he playfully implements a surprise breaking of the fourth wall, our involvement is complete. Complemented by some delicious symbology — the mincing of meat and noise of the food processor as minds are lost during what ought to be a safe, domestic scenario, is a particular favourite — and Possession approaches perfection.
Really speaking, this is not a horror film as such. Only at 48 minutes in is there indication that something supernatural may be afoot — and of course the Creature’s appearance is of deep impact. But what Possession is truly concerned with is the twisted nature of love and our very human desire to hold and control others. This in itself is frightening enough.