I’ve seen this movie closing in on a half dozen times in my life. What astonishes you the first time you see this film, is the entire gestalt, the scenario, the performances, the audacity; this completely unhinged experience you are being taken on. It is a harrowing, inexplicable nightmarish journey, to the outer reaches of what it means to love and lust and lose and aspire.
Subsequent viewings, you shift attention to the craft, The simply spellbinding cinematography/camera movements by cinematographer Bruno Nyutten and previous Zulawski collaborator, Camera Operator Andrzej J. Jaroszewicz
The SECOND SIGHT Bluray lets you see this film, finally, in sumptuous quality befitting, what I and others without hesitation, have hailed as a masterpiece. The video quality is arguably better than it was in theaters back in 1981, and beyond how great the picture was, the special features are applause worthy. Not one, but two film commentaries. One with director Andrzej Zulawski, who suffers fools and idiotic questions, not well. No better than any creative person :). And an informative commentary with co-writer Frederick Tuten. Additionally a fantastic documentary on the making of the film, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WALL is worth the price of the Blu-ray by itself. Add in many other compelling featurettes, and what you have is just hours of both entertaining and informative viewing.
POSSESSION is one of the only Zulawski’s films that is ‘widely’ available. Part of this is – being a Horror genre adjacent film, as well as an English language film, it is far more accessible and salable than the equally esoteric, but not as genre friendly, experimental dramas that make up the bulk of the late Zulawski’s filmography.
Zulawski made thirteen feature films in his career. And each film, as it is for many filmmakers making films under repressive conditions, was a monumental battle for finances, and against the controlling forces of the establishment.
1991 La note bleue
1989 Boris Godounov
1989 My Nights Are More Beautiful Than Your Days
1988 On the Silver Globe
1985 L’amour braque
1984 La femme publique
1975 L’important c’est d’aimer
1972 The Devil
1971 The Third Part of the Night
I do look forward to viewing, when possible the rest of Zulawski films, but based on the description of those films, and my own taste, it is likely POSSESSION will be my favorite film of his. The genre frame work, I have often found, helps filmmakers who would otherwise get lost in the weeds of their own searching, still tell a compelling story.
Looking at the description of Zulawski’s other films, where his vision was not honed against another writer, Tuten, and other creative people, the films sound like they veer toward the self-indulgent and plotless. Again, just surmising… when I view these films I may be incorrect about that, however if the descriptions and feedback is accurate, based on my own taste with other filmmakers, being over self-indulgent tends not to make for films that appeal to me.
However, POSSESSION for all its strangeness, has a thru-line, a backbone, and an ending, that for me, for all its openness to interpretation, works. And it sports one of the great performances of all time by actress Isabelle Adjani. Who if you look at her filmography made a career giving really astonishing performances, but arguably none as horrific, and potentially damaging as this one.
For all these reasons POSSESSION from 1981, is a must watch, and in my opinion, must own film. Grade: B+.
‘Why do some films have longevity and others don’t?’
‘Here’s my facile answer. Do you want the facile answer? The more facile the film, the less likely it will be to last. Because the audience for facile films will drain away. They are not interested in film, they are interested in mere entertainment. So the easy, the accessible, the convenient, the popular, the flavor of the moment, that vanishes, replaced by another one like that. But something that has some grit to it, emotionally, intellectually, visually, something that seems aberrant at the time… somehow if it can survive by a few people seeing it, knowing about it, writing about it… that’s what lasts.’
Co-Writer Frederic Tuten on Zulawski’s POSSESSION