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POSSESSION
Blu-ray. Second Sight.

PossessionBack in the days of the Video Nasty witch hunt, nothing summed up the stupidity of the police, the DPP and the tabloids as well as the prosecution of Andrzej Zuwalski's Possession, and intensely powerful and creative movie that was reduced to the level of 'octopus sex film' on the basis of a single scene that didn't feature octopus sex. Thankfully, common sense for once prevailed and the film was acquitted of obscenity charges, but other than a brief VHS re-release in the late 1990's, it remained unseen in the UK until Second Sight's DVD edition a couple of years ago.That version has now been overhauled for Blu-ray, and this new edition is certainly worth the upgrade.

Possession is about many things, but at the heart of it is a marital breakdown. Sam Neill is Mark, a likely government agent (it's never really explained) who returns home from a mission to try and patch up his failing marriage to Anna (Isabelle Adjani). Anna has a lover, the slimy Heinrich (Heinz Bennent), and it's fair to say that neither of them are handling the situation well - Mark vegetates in a hotel room for three weeks, Anna leaves their young son alone in the flat, and they have intense physical confrontations as Mark flips between pushing her away and begging her to return. But it soon turns out that she has moved on from Heinrich, and now has a mysterious new partner - a grotesque, evolving tentacled creature that she will do anything to protect.

Possession is a remarkable film. Set in a grey, depressing West Berlin (the Wall is literally right outside the couple's window), it would be a deranged, intense film even without the bizarre creature - if you think you've ever had a bad breakup, this film might make you think again. Neill and Adjani are both at full throttle, reaching levels of hysteria so overwhelming that you worry for their sanity at times, Adjani especially going all out as she not so much descends as plummets into madness. The infamous 'birth' scene is rightly notorious for the level of dementia the actress shows, and never loses its power.

Possession (1981)While not a horror film, Possession certainly ventures into that area, and does so impressively. Carlo Rambaldi's monster is worryingly authentic, and the violence has a sickly reality to it - possibly because so much of it is quite intimate and small scale (the scene where Adjani takes an electric knife to her neck is still shocking). The creature could've derailed the film, but given the deranged nature of what we'd seen to far, its appearance isn't that odd, and Carlo Rambaldi's creature is so weird, so grotesque that its appearance adds to the overall shock value.

Zuwalski's direction is thankfully restrained - he lets the wildness happen within the characters, and the film itself has a sedate, cold feel to it. There's a political part to this story - it was his first project after leaving Communist Poland and it's clear that the evil he sees in the story isn't just that involving tentacled creatures - but it's not laid out in a heavy-handed manner, instead making up a part of the general insanity (after all, what could be more insane that a city split in two by a giant wall?).

Possession (1981)As powerful now as it was on original release in 1981, Possession is a disturbing, astonishing, sometime darkly comic and often moving tour-de-force that straddles the arthouse and the grindhouse while ultimately transcending both. A must see movie.

Second Sight's Blu-ray also contains admirable extras - an excellent 50+ minute retrospective documentary by Daniel Bird that tracks the film from concept to completion, commentary tracks from Zulawski and co-writer Frederic Tuten, a 30 minute French language interview with the fascinating, if sometimes grumpy director, a comparison between the original version of the film and the frankly disgraceful US re-edit (which removes 40 minutes, changes the context of some scenes, adds cheesy solarisation effects that would have looked tacky even in 1981 and swamps the soundtrack with inappropriate music - it's the existence of this version that led some UK fans in the early Eighties to believe that there was a fabled, one hour longer version of Possession out there somewhere, even though the UK VHS was the director's cut) and featurettes on the music, the production and poster artist Basha - alongside the visual upgrade of this edition - make this well worth buying again.

DAVID FLINT

BUY IT NOW (UK)

 

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