Possession (1981) – Andrzej Zulawski


A bizarre, and troubling tale was recommended to me by this odd list I came across listing horror movies, the majority of which I’d seen, but this one I’d never heard of…

After his turn as Damien Thorn in the Omen III, Sam Neill took on the role of Mark in this haunting and troubling film that shows the dissolution of a marriage, murder and a strange menace.

Mark has returned from a business trip to his wife Anna (Isabel Adjani), but their relationship is strained, verging on the brink of divorce while their son Bob (Michael Hogben) plays with his toys and works on holding his breath in the tub.


Their discussions are strained, verging on the violent and abusive and Mark learns that Anna has been having an affair with a man named Heinrich (a truly bizarre performance by Heinz Bennent).

Anna begins to leave the apartment at various times, going to see Heinrich, or at least that’s what Mark initially believes, instead we learn that she is going to a decrepit looking, multi-roomed apartment and terrible things are happening within it.

Mark has a brief relationship with Bob’s teacher Helen (also played by Adjani), who seems to be a complete polar opposite of Anna, which momentarily tempers his obsession for having to possess his wife, but he still needs to know what others want from her.

To say the film is bizarre doesn’t do it justice, I’ll openly admit to not even understanding it all, except that by film’s end, an evil has been released and the first person it seems to be coming for is Helen and Bob.

Both Neill and Adjani are intentionally over the top, and the hysteria that convey on-screen pushes its way forcefully into you, and keeps you on edge and nervous.


The climax of the film is violent and bloody, but the most intense scene occurs when Anna is walking in a long hallway, and begins to lose control of herself and her body.

This may be a film I need to revisit sometime and try to puzzle it out some more, but the intensity of it, not to mention the fridge and the odd creature that haunts Anna’s apartment, are enough to give me pause before I go back to it.

I do know it is about Zulawski’s own divorce, feelings of guilt, and despair, but there are enough odd moments and characters, like the Pink Socks Man (Maximilian Ruthlein) to knock you sideways.

One cannot fully classify this as a horror film, although it has a monster, but neither is it a straight forward drama. It is simply a terrifying look at a broken relationship…

Have you seen this one? What did you come away thinking of it?


One Comment Add yours

  1. vinnieh says:

    Interesting review, that scene in the subway is so shocking and hard to forget.

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