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Film Review: Possession (1981)


After a woman tells her husband that she wants a divorce she starts acting stranger and stranger as some pretty bizarre things begin to happen all around them. 


I know this guy that fancies himself as some sort of intellectual (even though he isn’t as nearly smart as he thinks he is) that only watches “intelligent” movies that the critics all love. He looks down his nose at most horror films as he feels that they are beneath him (I almost punched him in the mouth several years ago for talking smack about The Howling) and the films he does enjoy (or pretends to enjoy) are pretty much unwatchable in my opinion. With that being said I have a feeling that he probably loves Possession. I had a very hard time getting into it and even though it does seem to have a following of sorts I didn’t enjoy it and thought that it was a boring mess of a film that tried way too hard in a lot of ways.

I’m not even sure if Possession could be considered a horror film to be honest. Yeah, a monster (of sorts) shows up a couple of times and some people are murdered during the course of the film but in general I would be very hesitant to call it a horror film in the traditional sense. Essentially the entire movie is just a huge metaphor for divorce and all the bad things that come along with it.

Apparently, director/writer Andrzej Zulawski came up with the idea for the film after going through a pretty nasty divorce and while I think it is cool that he took something that happened to him in real life and wrote a film about it I still wasn’t a fan of Possession. Maybe I’m just stupid, but with a title like that I was expecting to see a movie about someone possessed by an evil spirit or some sort of demon, not a long and drawn out drama about a couple going through a divorce which is exactly what we get.

I think my biggest problem with the film is that it just tried way too hard to be out there. A lot of odd things happen during the course of the movie and to me it just seemed like they were thrown in there so viewers would talk about how bizarre the film truly was. At the risk of ticking a lot of people off it is a lot like a David Lynch movie. Other than the original Twin Peaks I am not much of a Lynch fan as I think he tries a little too hard to be odd and to weird people out with his movies.

That is the exact same way that I felt about Possession as it is just weird for weirdness sake and a lot of people have read way too much into some of the things that happen in it. I also thought that it tried way too hard to be intelligent and it was more than a little condescending as a result. In my head the whole time I was watching it I could hear the director saying “This movie is so much smarter than a lot of other films out there and I know it!”. Then again, as I said earlier maybe I’m just stupid and am reading a lot more into it than I should have and this wasn’t the case at all.

I also thought that it was incredibly boring as well. It moves along at a snail’s pace and takes forever for anything remotely interesting to happen. Even when something does happen it really isn’t anything that amazing and I honestly almost fell asleep no less than three times while I was watching it. I’m all for character-driven movies and I understand that most of them move slower than other films in order to develop the main characters but it seemed like Possession went on for about a week before the end credits started to roll. Seriously folks, if you’re having trouble trying to sleep give this movie a shot as I am sure that you will be sawing logs before you know it.

On the other hand, not everything was bad about this film. The acting was quite awesome (especially on the part of Sam Neil and Isabelle Adjani who both do phenomenal jobs) and I thought that the “monster” that pops up a couple of times looked great (no crappy CGI here, guys). Also, deep down I liked the basic idea behind the film (I guess it is the literature dork inside me). Divorce is something that a lot of people go through and it can be a very painful thing that takes some people years to get over so I applaud the people behind it for tackling the subject in a very different way. On paper the whole idea sounds brilliant but sadly there was just something off about the execution of it all that didn’t quite work for me.

I can’t say that I was a fan of Possession. I thought that it was a little too high-handed in a lot of ways and to be brutally honest it bored me to tears for the most part. While I guess it is cool that the people responsible for it wanted to try something different it just wasn’t for me (even though I will admit that it is original if nothing else).

I know that a lot of you out there probably really dig it and most likely think I am a moron because I didn’t, but I can’t help the way I feel about it. I don’t know if I just wasn’t’ the right audience for it or what, but in the end I just didn’t care for it. Give it a shot if it sounds like something that you might be into but I have a feeling that you are going to walk away feeling the same way I did about it in the long run.

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