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Possession (1981)

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A woman starts exhibiting increasingly disturbing behavior after asking her husband for a divorce. Suspicions of infidelity soon give way to something much more sinister.

Director:

Andrzej Zulawski

Writers:

Andrzej Zulawski (original screenplay), Andrzej Zulawski (adaptation) | 3 more credits »
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1,901 ( 1,105)
5 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Isabelle Adjani ... Anna / Helen
Sam Neill ... Mark
Margit Carstensen ... Margit Gluckmeister
Heinz Bennent ... Heinrich
Johanna Hofer Johanna Hofer ... Heinrich's Mother
Carl Duering ... Detective
Shaun Lawton Shaun Lawton ... Zimmermann
Michael Hogben Michael Hogben ... Bob
Maximilian Rüthlein Maximilian Rüthlein ... Man with Pink Socks (as Maximilian Ruethlein)
Thomas Frey Thomas Frey ... Pink Sock's Acolyte
Leslie Malton Leslie Malton ... Sara, Woman with Club Foot
Gerd Neubert Gerd Neubert ... Subway Drunk
Kerstin Wohlfahrt Kerstin Wohlfahrt
Ilse Bahrs Ilse Bahrs
Karin Mumm Karin Mumm
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Storyline

During a secretive business trip away, Mark learns that his wife Anna is growing restless in what he believed was their happy marriage. Upon his return home, he learns from her that she wants a divorce. They both go through a series of different emotions related to their situation, Mark's which is generally obsessive about learning why Anna, who he still loves, wants the divorce, and Anna's which is generally increasingly histrionic in getting away from Mark. Caught in the middle is their infant son Bob, who Mark uses as a gage to Anna's mental state. Anna states that her want for the divorce is not because of another man, but Mark finds out that Anna has a lover named Heinrich. In the meantime, Mark also meets Bob's teacher Helen, who looks exactly like Anna, but is her polar opposite in temperament. Starting a relationship with Helen lessens his obsession with Anna. But as Mark and Anna's encounters together reach more emotional and violent levels, Mark, with help of a private ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Murder. Evil. Infidelity. Madness. See more »

Genres:

Drama | Horror

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

France | West Germany

Language:

English | French | German

Release Date:

28 October 1983 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Night the Screaming Stops See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$234,258, 16 October 1983, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$1,113,538
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

According to Halliwell's, "it was released in the US in a 97 minute version". As such, the film was cut by about half an hour from its full running time of about 127 minutes. According to Yuri German at Allmovie, "the version originally released in the U.S. had 45 minutes chopped out". See more »

Goofs

In the kitchen scene where Anna cuts herself with an electric knife, Mark picks it up and starts slicing his left arm multiple times. The next day, he is in the kitchen again with his sleeves rolled up, but there are no cuts on his arm. Given the surreal nature of this film, this could have been planned. The camera focuses on the supposedly sliced arm. One can only speculate what message was intended, if in fact the "gaff" was intentional. See more »

Quotes

Mark: Get out! Get out!
[trashes Café Einstein like a one man hurricane]
See more »

Alternate Versions

Although once branded a video nasty the full-length 118 minute Director's Cut was passed fully uncut by the BBFC on the Visual Film video label in 1999. See more »

Connections

References Scenes from a Marriage (1973) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
"God is in me"
8 December 2011 | by MisterWhiplashSee all my reviews

It's staggering to come up against a filmmaker who has a truly mad vision to put onto celluloid. If it's really believable and the maker isn't just putting on the audience it can take us into that madness. Possession is a film that is like it's title, taken with it's own sense of grandeur, starting off as a Scenes-from-a-Marriage-esque tale of downfall - with more ZAP and wildness in the fights the married couple have - but with something just not quite right. These scenes feel raw and uninhibited, by the actors and by the material, which goes to such extremes of how much they hurt one another that it becomes perversely funny.

Why all the camera movement in this film, especially early on, where it turns into Vittorio Storaro Time with a Red Bull chaser? From the sensibility of the high emotions and hysteria on display, why not? If your material is going all out, then you might as well go all out with it. Isabelle Adjani really, REALLY goes to town here, forgetting that there's such a thing as 'chewing scenery' and just stampeding through it at times, with Sam Neill and the camera operator being breathless to keep up. It's a film that moves with real force and energy... sometimes maybe TOO much force and energy.

For a film like possession, excess is not something that can be kept back, but what is so fascinating is that it's so intense at times, in the husband/wife interactions, the emotional violence springing out into physical abuse (at one point a slap is then encouraged into more, an uncomfortable scene done just right), that it's fascinating because it's going into such high volume. And as a horror film, a true horror film of the soul where it's laid bare and stripped out by a demon and f***ed with a spiky tail or something, it's bewildering, mind-boggling, and a dark pile of fun.

A lot of it is the performances - Adjani worked her ass off to get that Cannes best actress win, and though there are times I can't understand her (not sure if it's the accent or the lines, like her 'fate and chance' monologue) and runs the gamut as a character who starts out flawed and damaged and gets so turned-inside-out she makes Linda Blair in the Exorcist look like a... girl. And Sam Neill has a kind of strange appeal here - at times he talks like he doesn't take these lines seriously, or is doing so SO much that it just becomes funny, and other times he is genuinely power-punching with his dramatic touch. In a scene like the restaurant fight he goes between both levels.

But why I may, someday, after I can get over the experience, would return to Possession is that among the f***ing-insane style of films out there, there's nothing else quite like it. It revels in bringing the audience into its horror set-pieces, especially with that creature in the apartment as ambiguous a demon as the baby in Eraserhead, and the dread in every man going into that apartment harder to bear than the one before. And there is genuine pain, I think, in the filmmaking. I don't know the history behind the film's gestation but I'd wager the director had a bad marriage and expressed it, literally and metaphorically, with a tale of an unfaithful woman brought to madness by a demon... or maybe that's it.

Possession doesn't spoon-feed at any point in time. On the contrary, and maybe this is a flaw I think, there's so little explanation of anything in the film that by the last fifteen minutes as Sam Neill's character goes ape-s**t and the husband/wife's child just gives up. It got to the point where I had my hands up in a 'what the hell!?' position sitting in my seat in the theater. Perhaps another viewing would solve some of my quandaries, or just make new ones. Whatever the case, the mood of this film is chilling and harrowing, and for those who like their dolly shots, this is a must-must-MUST see. Oh, and by the way, the creature effects - by the guy that did E.T.(!)


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