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3.5 out of 5 stars
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on 17 September 2009
Possession is totally extraordinary.
Packed with symbolism it can be read on so many possible levels of interpretation it's bewildering.
Set in a European city (obviously Berlin during its partition) in an alienating mixture of ultra modern buildings and decaying grandeur, visually it evokes a sense of dislocation. The plot can't easily be summarised without foretelling too many of the surprises the film contains. Thematically, it seems to be a study of a marriage in the last phase of destruction, with Sam Neill returning from doing a mysterious job (spying?) and meeting his wife played by Isabelle Adjani, whose agitated reaction to his arrival only hints at the deep levels of disturbance she enacts as the film progresses.
What follows is a nightmarish and surreal two hours of startling images, bizarre acting and frequent bloodletting.
If you liked Antichrist you will be interested to see a lot of similar themes in Possession - misogyny, madness, faith, evil and lust permeate a fractured dreamscape with a sustained and unique oddness.
I was put in mind of J.G. Ballard, William Burroughs, Polanski, Cronenberg and David Lynch, but Zulawski's film is totally unique.
Possession was put on the banned list during the Video Nasties era, but don't come to it expecting anything like any of the more exploitation films I've seen off the DPP 39, Possession is as challenging an art-horror as I've ever seen.

Highly recommended.
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on 31 July 2013
In Possession, Sam Neill plays a Spy who has come back to west Berlin after spending some time on assignment on the other side of the Berlin Wall. Upon arriving home he finds his marriage is slowly disintegrating and his wife has taken up with a new man called Heinrich, a free-spirited libertarian. However, as he investigates he discovers there is another lover in the mix, and uncovers a dark secret that his wife has been keeping from both him and Heinrich. Her new lover isn't human and she will kill to protect it!.

It's curious that Second Sight decided to release this so close to David Cronenberg's THE BROOD The Brood (Blu Ray) [Blu-ray] Both films are about the disintegration of the nuclear family in a bitter divorce and both films have their lead female protagonist give birth to a metaphor made flesh. In the case of THE BROOD Samantha Eggar's character gave birth to a physical manifestation of her rage, in POSSESSION Isabelle Adjani gives birth to something with a more political context than the psychological one seen in the Cronsnberg film. Set in Berlin and featuring plenty of shots of the Wall, and the guards observing things through binoculars, the film is set in a city divided both physically and psychologically. In essence the city is as divided as the characters who bicker, scream and self-harm and show little awareness of the people around them. As things continue to fall apart in their private lives, and the characters grow ever madder and the plot gets stranger, we get the impression the world itself is falling to pieces. It's also worth noting director Zulawski made this film after the sudden ending of his marriage (his wife ran of with a man named Heinrich) and the ending of his last film at the hands of Poland's Communist government so there is a strong element of autobiography to the film as well.

So then, anyone who says that horror films can't be intelligent or have anything to say about the world should really be directed to this wonderful and strange movie that sits nicely on the shelf next to the works of Jodorowsky, Lynch and Cronenberg. Previously banned in the United Kingdom by idiots who didn't really 'get' it. The film is now out on Blu-ray from second sight with a wealth of extras including two commentary tracks, a 51 minute making of, interviews and more. For the most part the picture quality is excellent, there is some 'noise' however in some of the darker scenes that gets quite noticeable, it doesn't look like DNR as there's plenty of detail in the image. I suspect it may be due to the source material showing it up in HD but i'm sure someone more knowledgeable than me might have an answer.

Overall though it's the best release of the film to date. I have the Anchor bay US release and the previous Second sight DVD release and this is still a noticeable step up from those. If you have not seen the film yet I urge you to buy it immediately and watch it. It's a genuinely brilliant slice of cinema. It nearly won at Cannes, and Isabelle Adjani won for her insane and over the top performance which was criticized by some critics but suits the tone of the film perfectly.
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on 25 February 2012
I like horror films. I rather enjoy 'video nasties' as they were called, though merely to laugh at what was considered the worst of the worst back in the day before internet access to anything... This film however wasn't like anything I'd expected. I thought it would be silly to watch, a mess of cheap gore and over acting. Instead it contains one of the most phenomenal - and disturbing! - performances I've ever seen. Isabelle Adjani quite simply goes insane. Her performance is riveting. I found my fists clenched on numerous occasions, near breathless at the sheer depths she must have delved to find such energy, such madness! Zulawski's direction - his use of tracking shots, relentlessly following his actors, keeping the camera right in their faces, pulling out the very last morsel - must have been a nightmare to contend with.

The film is filled with symbols. It has no clear story, seeming at its heart to explore the break down of a marriage, but there is a great deal simmering underneath, and too much to fully comprehend on a single viewing. I found the whole film so oddly disconcerting, and yet for no specific reason. Though bloody, there is nothing overtly over the top in the gore department, while the near instant shifts in Neal's and Adjani's acting, from stylised control, to absolute edge-of-your-seat hysteria is breathtaking. I'm sure this isn't a film everyone will warm to, but I most certainly did. I think the trick is to give up on finding meaning, and just sit back and be engulfed in a very strange experience!
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on 8 August 2013
Andrzej Zulawski's 'Possession' was one of the most controversial releases of the early 80s, even whilst it boasted a very well deserved Best Actress award at Cannes for Isabelle Adjani.

A nerve-shredding study of paranioa, claustrophobia and the complete disintegration of a family, all set against the backdrop of a gloomy and sterile Berlin, will not be a clarion call to the tastes of many, but this visceral and explicitly violent drama boasts superb camera work, art direction and some of the best performances of its actors' careers. The pace may begin a little slowly, but the viewer cannot help but be drawn in to this increasingly terrifying and disturbing nightmare.

Sam Neill, in one of his early roles, is a perfect smouldering foil for the almost screaming-pitch performance from his screen wife Isabelle Adjani. Indeed Adjani's extreme hysteria and physical degredations are almost too exhausting to watch, but it's a testament to her commitment and acting ability that she is able to sustain such a degree of intensity through much of the film's running time. The revelation of the 'dark secret' which lies at the core of her madness, and its gruesome aftermath, has much in common with the metaphorical body-horror genre of films a la Cronenberg which were popluar at the time, but 'Possession' stands out from the rest for taking the concept and its explicit representations much further than the rest....!

The blu-ray disc offers a wondefully pristine widescreen print, highlighting the stark sterility of the environment and lending the gore a whole new level of intensity. There are some great extras too, lending insights into the film's production and reception.

Be warned though - this is the full uncut version and there are at least two sequences which many will find hard to watch. Pregnant women should definitely think twice before entering Adjani's world!!!
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on 14 January 2012
Anna, a sadistic ballet teacher is married, to Mark, a spy of some sort. They are having marital problems and boy are those problems bad!
Possession is a gory perverse mash up of doppelgangers, crazed camera work and ultra alienating characters, that culminates in Anna enjoying angst filled graphic congress with a squid/man/octopus-thing, whilst repeating the word "almost. Along the way there's a miscarriage in a subway, a bisexual who lives with his mum, some nasty business with an electric carving knife and a very violent shooting. It's hard to say what this movie is actually about, but loosely if The Brood was about the physical manifestation of the damage caused by the break up of a marriage, Possession is about the even worse mayhem inflicted on everyone when two very nasty dysfunctional people are working things through. There is also a political dimension involved. It is important that Possession is set in Berlin against the backdrop of the Berlin Wall. This is a paranoid film about personal and political fear manifesting themselves as a pyschological and physical nightmare.

Isabelle Adjani goes at her performance with a blank, numb, suppressed fury and Sam Neill alternates between a weird bemused indulgent empathy for his wife and a deep inner sickness.

Possession is a one off. Too OTT to entirely work as art-house cinema, but not really a horror film either. There's a strong visual debt to 1970s Italian giallo horror thrillers and to an extent a thematic similarity to Cronenberg's body horror films.
Possession is by turns fascinating, ludicrous, and striking. It's a genuine oddity and a must for collectors the original Video Nasties.
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on 18 January 2013
Right people... This film is tremendous. I knew hardly anything about it before I watched it & it blew me away.

What mainly grabbed me, is it's utter ferocity & intensity, it just keeps growing & growing as the film goes on (some real turned up to 11 stuff is delivered!) The performances are outstanding, Isabelle Adjani, Sam Neill, Heinz Bennent, all giving seemingly everything they have - blood, guts & gristle. It must be said Isabelle Adjani's performance is particularly outstanding, the metro scene is astonishing, pure, visceral & truly unforgettable.

Even though the genre `horror' seems to be tagged to this film, it is far more than that. The first half portrays a relationship `break down' in such a brutal, grizzly way it brings Lars von Trier's Antichrist to mind (which I'm sure Possession must have been an influence). Science fiction, art house, comedy, noir are all here in buckets & having the Berlin wall overlooking the story is a wonderful idea.

The superb build of the film & answers given heading to the end, gave me a Hitchcockian experience (dare I say... better). The pink socks, the kid, the bath, Sam at the door, Isabelle's look to camera & whatever is happening in the sky.

Again, this film is tremendous. Owing to it's cult & kinda unknown status the price is a trifle more than a standard DVD....... It's totally worth it.
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on 20 January 2016
Isabelle Adjani's career defining performance seems at moments to go beyond madness. Sam Neill willingly joins in with master artist Andrezej Zulawslki directing. Be advised that Possession (1981) is unlike many films you may have seen, however I wouldn't really classify it as a horror film. Yes, the societal shock and horror of seeing murder, blood, gore and a "monster" are on screen, but this film plays a different tune. The real monster is communism and with the wall between east and west so close together, communism's insidious influence drives Adjani's character insane as she gives birth to a communist copy of Sam Neill's character, Mark. We see that there's already a copy of Anna, who works as Mark and Anna's teacher. Deeply nuanced and layered, I love this artistic masterpiece.
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on 6 November 2014
This is a pretty intense film. It is on the background of the main characters' marriage failing. There are a lot of arguments and screaming. Not comfortable viewing. Adjani does a great job with rather odd material. I can't say much more without spoiling the plot, which is definitely strange and involves a squid-like murderous creature.
The picture and sound quality seem very dated, despite the Blue-ray transfer. I expect a DVD would be just as good for this film.
Worth a watch. I can imagine it's one people will love or hate in similar numbers.
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on 27 January 2013
It is hard to NOT watch this film, as Adjani's performance is incredible, but so is most everything else here. It all seems so alien, but there is a deep human truth running through it.
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on 16 June 2015
Polish director Andrzej Zulawski used the conventions of horror and science fiction to make this metaphorical political tale. When Mark (Sam Neill) returns from a separation from his wife Anna (Isabelle Adjani) she then decides she doesn't want him back. He hires private detectives to learn why, but they disappear while on the case. Where have they gone and what does Anna keep in her apartment? Well no spoilers here but when its revealed it will leave you open mouthed. The cover of the DVD states "with special creature effects by...." so it does resemble something out of The Thing. Isabelle Adjani deserved an Oscar for the way she is possessed, especially the subway scene which is about 4 minutes long without a single edit. Only problem with the film is that its jumbled up and not linear. If it was a normal straight forward filmed 'film' then it would make a lot more sense. Only way I can some up this film is that if it was released now in 2015 as a Japanese horror film, it would be up there with Ringu, Dark Water etc but its from 1981 and very few people have seen it - hence this is the only review on Lovefilm.
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