Possession (1981)

Andrzej Zulawski’s out-of-control horror is a bare-souled account of a broken relationship.

Mark (Sam Neil) sends a private detective to follow his wife (Isabelle Adjani) suspecting her of having an affair, but the horrors are far worse than he imagines after it’s revealed her lover is a strange tentacled creature.

If this synopsis seems strange enough it can’t do justice to a wild, careering story that presents a hyper-real allegory on fidelity and identity. It’s also dense with political and literary allusions – a tale of Dostoevskyian doppelgangers set in the divided city of Berlin. The relentless energy of Andrzej Zulawski’s prowling camerawork is matched in kineticism by Adjani’s thoroughly demented performance, which earned her a best actress award at Cannes. Completing the film’s bizarre backstory, Possession also found itself ill-fittingly included on the infamous ‘video nasty’ list of outlawed cassettes in the early 1980s. With creature effects by the Oscar-winning creator of E.T, Carlos Rambaldi, Possession is filmmaking at its most frenzied, fraught and furious.

1981 France, Federal Republic of Germany
Directed by
Andrzej Zulawski
Produced by
Marie-Laure Reyre
Written by
Andrzej Zulawski
Featuring
Isabelle Adjani, Sam Neill, Margit Carstensen
Running time
127 minutes

Ranked in The Greatest Films of All Time poll

Sight and Sound

Who voted for Possession

Critics

Anna Backman Rogers
Sweden
Ariel Baska
USA
Edwin Carels
Belgium
Desirée de Fez
Spain
William Fowler
UK
Michael Goddard
UK
Alexandra Heller-Nicholas
Australia
Mark Pilkington
UK
Laurence Reymond
France
Stephen Thrower
UK
Andrew Tracy
Canada
Dennis Vetter
Germany

Directors

Romola Garai
UK
Roberto Minervini
US/Italy
Isabel SANDOVAL
USA
Isabelle Stever

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