Sometimes the phrase “I don’t know” can be the most crippling statement. The uncertainty can propel people to extremism. Ingeniously, Sam Neill’s Mark is a castoff from a John Le Carre espionage novel. Andrzej Zulawski swirls the camera around Neill and his increasingly paranoid eyes dilate with furor. Like a scene from a Pink Panther movie, the couple sit diagonally from each other in a restaurant while Mark’s male ego is shattered irrevocably.
Zulawski’s film practically vibrates with the restlessness associated with separation anxiety (Neill’s swaying body language in a rocking chair is a flawless aesthetic representation of this). During ordeals of tumultuous distress, Zulawski theorizes that psyches can be mitotic into doppelgangers and the Berlin Wall at the height of the Cold War was the ultimate demarcation line.
Possession is a terrifyingly capricious, jaundiced relationship-decay drama with Lovecraftian leviathan element. It interbreeds the psychosexual dynamism of Adrian Lyne, the olive-black humor of Roman Polanski (Heinrich (Heinz Bennett) is a preening, idiosyncratic bohemian who caresses Neill awkwardly during their altercations) and the ruthlessness of Harold Pinter (“I’m at war against women.”).
Isabelle Adjani, in a tour-de-force performance, seems preternaturally alien during her interactions with Neill. She is constantly eluding his questions and appears irrationally narcotized (i.e. The meat-slicing scene). Of course, the film is percolated through Neill’s point-of-view. In Mark’s mind, Anna’s apathy towards him is extraterrestrial and she (and her extramarital lover) are transmogrified into slimy, lacertilian creatures.
Luckily, the film segues from impending divorce proceedings to KNB effects workshop with ease. The slithering culprit itself is vaguely humanoid in shape in the midst of its chrysalis. Clive Barker’s Hellraiser borrowed heavily from the fodder-for-a-flayed-lover plotline. The gorehound second half doesn’t overshadow the frazzling kitchen-sink teeth-grinding of the first half.