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Film / Possession

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"What I miscarried there was sister Faith, and what was left is sister Chance. So I had to take care of my faith to protect it."

A 1981 psychological horror drama, directed by Andrzej Żuławski and starring a young Sam Neill and Isabelle Adjani.

Mark (Neill), a secret agent, returns from an overseas assignment to discover that his wife Anna (Adjani) has left him. After she disappears, abandoning their child in her apartment, Mark manages to track down his wife's lover. He turns out to be Heinrich: a swinger who knows kung fu and lives with his mother. However, Heinrich also hasn't seen Anna for weeks. Together, the two men track down Anna's new lover, a lover that might not even be human...

Banned in the UK, most likely due to Carlo Rambaldi's impressively goopy effects, which still hold up quite well today. It's currently available uncut on DVD/Blu-Ray.

Not to be confused with the 2012 Sam Raimi film The Possession. Or with Possession: A Romance by A.S. Byatt.


This film provides examples of:

  • Beard of Sorrow: Mark grows one after spending three weeks in a hotel room as a consequence of having been just left by Anna.
  • Betty and Veronica: Mark has Helen, his son's kindly schoolteacher, as the Betty, and Anna, his mentally unstable ex-wife who is fucking a newborn demon, as the Veronica. Both of them are played by Isabelle Adjani.
  • Bishōnen Line: Each time the creature is seen it looks a little bit more human. It goes from being a fleshy shape attached to the bathroom wall, to a vaguely man-shaped mass of gore on the bed, to something resembling a cross between a deep sea fish and a newborn fetus, to a merman-like creature with tentacle arms and a tail, to a perfect copy of Mark with Black Eyes of Evil. When Anna is having sex with it near the end, she shouts "Almost!" repeatedly, implying that she's shaping the creature into a clone of Mark herself.
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  • Black Eyes of Evil: Mark has Icy Blue Eyes normally, but his completed doppelganger has totally black eyes.
  • Blood from the Mouth: Mark after being shot through the throat, combined with blood bubbling out of his neck.
  • Chekhov's Gun: At the beginning of the movie, Mark is asked by his business associates if the subject he was following still wears pink socks. At the end of the movie, he's shot by one of his former employers, who happens to wear pink socks, so it's implied that he unleashed the apocalypse we hear of in the ending.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Heinrich is brained with the lid of a toilet tank and then drowned in that same filthy, public toilet, after he'd already been stabbed and Driven to Madness by the thing in Helen's apartment. Truly there aren't many worse ways to go.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: It's hard to say just what the fuck that thing in Anna's apartment is supposed to be, but whatever it is it's pure evil and its completion appears to herald the apocalypse.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: When Mark tries to fight Heinrich after meeting him for the first time, Heinrich takes him out in about 3 hits while Mark flails ineffectually.
  • Death of a Child: Bob drowns himself in the bathtub.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Heinrich, being a bisexual swinger.
  • Downer Ending: Mark and Anna are both gunned down by the police while the doppelganger escapes. Bob drowns himself in the bathtub and the doppelganger waits behind the door as Helen witnesses World War III begin outside.
  • Dub-Induced Plotline Change: The US cut of the film was edited down from 127 to 81 minutes and had the original score replaced with Ominous Latin Chanting in an attempt pass it off as a straight horror film.
  • Dysfunction Junction: It's a divorce and a dysfunctional family we're talking about, after all.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Anna's secret lover... demon... tentacle... thing. Turns out to be Mark's Doppelgänger in the end.
  • Fan Disservice: Isabelle Adjani is quite an attractive woman. To see her having sex with an Eldritch Abomination? Not hot.
  • Freak Out: Anna in the subway. Ends with her spewing blood, pus, and slime from several orifices.
  • Gainax Ending: Mark's doppelganger arrives at his house to do... something to Helen. Bob, apparently sensing the approaching evil, begs her not to open the door and then runs upstairs to drown himself in the bathtub. As Helen sees the doppelganger through the door, sirens and explosions are heard outside; Helen turns and looks directly into the camera as the doppelganger presses itself against the window. The end.
  • Genre Shift: Starts as a divorce drama, but evolves into supernatural horror and eventually into Surreal Horror.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Happens to anyone who sees the creature. Heinrich appears to go temporarily blind after laying eyes on it.
  • Icy Blue Eyes: Both Mark and Anna have these, and with how many shots there are of both of them staring piercingly into the camera, the movie makes good use of them.
  • Identical Stranger: Helen looks almost exactly like Anna, differing only in hair and eye color.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The film's thick symbolism prevents most critical viewers from interpreting the film literally, but that leaves an open interpretation as to what exactly Mark's "doppelganger" is. Is the Eldritch Abomination a production of Mark's psychosis, his warped viewing of Anna's adulterous lover? Is it Anna's delusion, her interpretation of the perfect version of Mark? A broader allegory for the nuclear spectre of the Cold War? Or, if we choose to view it literally, is it truly an Eldritch Abomination, and the entire story is one psychologically monstrous Cosmic Horror Story? The film never denies any of these perspectives, and it's important to note that multiple other characters corrobate Mark's seemingly delusional fantasies.
  • Mind Screw: It's all an allegory for divorce.
  • Private Detective: Mark engages one to find out more about Anna. He meets a bad end when he gets too pushy about entering her apartment, and ends up running right into the creature.
  • Rule of Symbolism: According to this theory (beware: spoilers ahead!), the movie is an allegory of divorce, and there's subtle Cold War undertones here and there that become more obvious in the ending.
  • Scenery Gorn: Berlin is a worn-down, desolate wasteland of a city in this film. Even calm domestic interiors become this after Mark and Anna's arguments cause them to throw trash and broken furniture everywhere.
  • Spit-Trail Kiss: Mark and Anna have one as they lay dying on the stairs from gunshot wounds. In their case the spit mixes with blood.
  • Straight Gay: You wouldn't tell the two detectives are a gay couple until they reveal it.
  • Surreal Horror: The movie is a steadily accelerating descent into a hellish nightmare. At the end it's hardly recognizable as the tense divorce drama it started out as.
  • Together in Death: Mark and Anna die together to a hail of police bullets. They share one last kiss before Anna shoots them both through the spine.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Heinrich's mother seemed a very nice old lady in a world going mad; she commits suicide because she can't stand losing her son.
  • Villain Protagonist: By the last third of the film, Mark has killed Heinrich and is actively covering up Anna's other murders. It's clear by this point he only cares about being with her again.
  • Wham Line: Anna is responsible for two extraordinarily disturbing ones.
    Anna: He's very tired, he made love to me all night.
    • And...
    Anna: It's finished, I wanted you to see!
  • World of Ham: Could be called Ham: The Movie. The vast majority of scenes containing Mark, Anna, and Heinrich contain intense amounts of yelling, exaggerated gestures, and uncomfortable amounts of out-of-place touching. All three of these characters often engage in frequent spasmodic fits, intense physical reactions to emotion, and temper tantrums, though none stand up to the 5 minute long segment of Anna screaming and throwing herself around a subway tunnel, completely by herself. Just about the only time you see reasonable, level-headed behavior is when Mark is interacting with Bob.
  • Wretched Hive: Berlin is depicted as an almost humanless concrete desert, with most of the little human interaction that occurs being crazy and violent. Oh, and did we mention the ghost of the Cold War creeping through the city?