Tuesday, January 29, 2013

POSSESSION (1981) - Andrzej Zulawski

Skimming the Wikipedia page for Possession to see how someone would describe the plot (as one often must after a Zulawski film), I stumbled upon this little tidbit: "The director has stated he wrote the screenplay in the midst of a messy divorce." Gee, you think?

"Messy" might be most polite adjective one could use to describe the movie/experience/mindfuck that is Zulawski's Possession. This movie is marinated in bad marital juju. More than any other movie I've seen, Zulawski's physicalizes the psychic wounds of a crumbling marriage, puts his husband (Sam Neill) and wife (Isabelle Adjani) into a conjugal meat grinder of their own making, and cranks that sucker for all it's worth.

Garden variety adultery is just the starting point. It's one thing to discover your wife has been cheating on you. Another thing to discover she's been cheating on you with a guy named Heinrich who kicks you in balls while doing a Swan Lake Arabesque.

And still another thing to discover she's been cheating on you AND Heinrich with...well...whatever you want to call this thing...

The fact that said creature later turns out to be your doppelganger...well, that's just a bonus.

Adjani doesn't escape the torture. Unless your idea of fun is a seven minute shrieking miscarriage in a shadowy subway tunnel (see pic at the top). During awards season, the word "fearless" gets tossed around way too much on gorgeous actresses willing to "go ugly" for a plum role. But I've never seen a performance earn the "fearless" mantle quite like Isabelle Adjani's in Possession. It takes a LOT of trust in your director to do the things Adjani does in this film. She definitely earned her 1981 Cannes Best Actress Award.

For all its freakish inscrutability, Possession is the best gateway drug into Zulawski, a good starting point for newbies in that it follows classic horror-thriller beats before blasting them to smithereens. Enter at your own risk, and make sure to check your shoes on the way out. With all the fluids flying around in this flick, you'll likely have to hose them down.

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