Blu-ray Review: POSSESSION (1981)

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Review: Possession / Cert: 18 / Director: Andrzej Zulawski / Screenplay: Andrzej Zulawski / Starring: Isabelle Adjani, Sam Neill, Heinz Bennent, Margit Carstensen / Release Date: July 29th

Set in Berlin, Possession is not for the weak-hearted. Whilst most definitely a film of its time in terms of appearance, Possession is a visceral, violent, erratic and piercing effort that pokes and prods its audience any chance it gets. Helping this along are astonishing performances from some of the key players involved.

Possession begins by introducing us to Anna (Adjani) and Mark (Neill), a couple whose marriage is in severe trouble. Both on the verge of insanity at times, the two spend the first third of the film just screaming at each other. Things only worsen when Mark suspects Anna of various affairs, as her mental state starts to go from odd to outright insane. With Mark struggling to get a handle on where his marriage is, his wife is worshipping a bizarre tentacled creature and killing anyone that poses a threat to her bizarre new love interest.

The tone and feel of the film are expertly steered by Zulawski. Often using spacious wide shots, the director creates a sense of anguish, isolation and fear, whilst quick-cuts and erratic camera movements show the lead characters’ descent into madness. Central to all of this is the performances of said lead characters. To say that the talent on show are a little over the top would be an understatement of massive proportions. Some, such as Bennent’s Heinrich, are too much. Playing a potential suitor of Anna, Bennent’s performance makes Jack Nicholson’s bat-shit crazy Jack Torrance seem as excitable as Mumford & Sons. In comparison, Neill’s performance is just about perfect in its moments of madness. Often on the edge of being laughable, Neill manages to bring it in enough at the right times in order to make the performance credible. It’s a perfect balance on his part. That said, the star of the show here is clearly Adjani’s crazed performance as Anna. Watching her spend most of the film shrieking in a high-pitched voice, you really find yourself worrying about Adjani the actor rather than just the character she is playing. Not only did she win a César award for her performance, she was also typecast as ‘that crazy French lady’ for years to come. She is a literal force of nature in this film, for better or for worse.

Adding to the film’s feel, the effects work by Carlo Rambaldi is fantastic. He delivers a gruesome, raw beast of a monster, never so more disgusting than when it enjoys an ‘adult hug’ with Anna. If that’s not enough, the Blu-ray consists of the full uncut version of the film and a slew of fantastic extras, making this an essential addition for genre fans.

Extras: Audio Commentaries / The Making of Possession / Repossessed – the film's UK and US reception / Featurette on the Berlin locations / Interview with the director / The Sounds of Possession / 6 Featurettes / Trailer

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