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.
This film provides examples of:
- Adult Fear: Divorcing while having to take care of a kid during Cold War paranoia certainly qualify.
- Beard of Sorrow: Mark grows one after spending three weeks in a hotel room as a consequence of having been just left by Anna.
- 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.
- Cut-and-Paste Translation: 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.
- Death of a Child: Bob drowns himself in the bathtub.
- Depraved Bisexual: Heinrich, being a bisexual swinger.
- 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? Eeeeeeew!
- Freak Out!: Anna in the subway. Ends with her spewing blood, pus, and slime from several orifices.
- Genre Shift: Starts as a divorce drama, but evolves into supernatural horror and eventually into Surreal Horror.
- Mind Screw: Up to Eleven. It's all an allegory for divorce.
- Private Detective: Mark engages one to find out more about Anna.
- 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.
- Straight Gay: You wouldn't tell the two detectives are a gay couple until they reveal it.
- Surreal Horror: And a particularly surreal example.
- 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.
- 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?
- Your Cheating Heart: What starts the whole plot after all.