Possession (Deluxe Limited Edition) Review

Mondo Vision pull out all the stops for Zulawski’s tale of breakups and Octopus sex….


Looking down the Video Nasty list of movies outlawed in the eighties in the UK, you see a lot of gore movies, rape revenge flicks, some Fulci, some Argento…and, strangely, Andrzej Zulawski’s Possession. It is probably the only film nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes to appear in such company, and its presence is largely due to the film’s outre credentials rather than artistic pedigree. With a butchered US video release adding to its particular cachet, Possession earned a reputation as being that octopus sex movie. The film itself was born out of twin events that beset the director. Effectively blacklisted in Poland with On Silver Globe left unfinished, halted by the communist government, and facing a break-up with his wife and the mother of his son. Zulawski came to the US and then to Europe, an exile and alone. Possession was born as his next project out of personal tumult, political exclusion and the director’s particular need to express pain and passion as few other artists do.

Set in Berlin, overlooking the wall that split the city in two for nearly 30 years, Possession deals with the turbulent marriage of Anne and Mark. Mark seems to work for a shady arm of government and is away a lot, his wife Anne looks after their young child and has grown apart from her husband because of his absences and her own passions. The action opens with the two ricocheting over their small post industrial apartment, hacking meaning, revenge and reaction from the one they once loved. Anne’s affair is discovered with Heinrich, and Mark challenges him only to be beaten by the “superior” man. When Anne disappears, both men look for her, Mark hires a detective to trace her and learns she has another home now – the detective goes missing too, and Mark happily tells Heinrich where she is. Once uncovered, Anne’s new lover is not what either of them imagined and those same shady former employers of Mark are chasing down Mark, Anne and it.

If his first western project, L’important c’est d’aimer, was a passionate trial of true affections, then Possession is even less optimistic, deliberately ending in an apocalypse of sorts with one time lovers replaced, perhaps improved upon, by new versions of themselves. The fracture of happiness which begins with burnt out affections widens until the world and the people in it have been destroyed or replaced.Where other film-makers explore break-ups in courtroom battles and subtle character interplay, Zulawski considers such civility a lie, opting to release his lost lovers into maniacal rages and scary physicality where they crash off walls and perform grandiose self harm. Adjani as Anna is particularly fearless in surrendering to the rabid demands of this feeling; her birth sequence in the metro is terrifying and touches upon the boundary between acting and naked self-revelation in its sheer relentlessness.

The sole criticism I have of Possession is that the film borders on self indulgent therapy. Whilst the director’s art reveals much about the world and explores that terrifying otherness that exists when division begins, the peculiarly personal nature of characters like Margi and Heinrich suggests that settling personal scores is more important to him than the goal of expression or the existence of his audience.Still, perfection is never the goal of the director’s work and the impossibly personal pain contained and loosed in Possession is intoxicating for all its poison and bile. Simply, one of the most moving and challenging films you could ever see, an experience not for the squeamish or fragile. Possession is tremendous cinema.

The Limited Deluxe Edition

Ok, the main issue for those of you who bought the Second Sight release last year has to be how does the transfer compare? Well, this is a chalk and cheese situation with the dark contrast and artificial aesthetic of that release blown out of the water by this filmic, delightfully toned and unbelievably detailed transfer. The standards Mondo Vision, and David McKenzie, set with their standard definition releases were very high indeed and this their first blu-ray release continues that tradition. I doubt you’ll see a better transfer all year.Audio choices include the unauthorised sound mix featuring extra music cues, the commentary shared by many of the releases of this film and a splendid master audio mix of the original mono track. Music sounds clearer than before and the screaming and emoting makes more sense than ever before because of this rich treatment. For extra audience care, subtitles come in a choice of white or yellow font for English, Spanish or French viewers.

The included interview on the all region disc with Zulawski is the same as was on the Second Sight disc, although the Frederic Tuten interviews are not included from that release. The documentary from Daniel Bird on the genesis and production of possession includes interviews with the producer, cameraman, co-writer and Zulawski himself and is an excellent watch for all of its 50 minutes or so.

As also is the interview with Zulawski’s literary translator who explains his exacting methods and his literary merit. You also get a HD trailer reel of the current MV releases and the trailer for the main feature. And that’s before you get onto all the other goodies….

Robert Wilson uploaded the following onto youtube which gives you an excellent notion of what a bumper package this is:

The digipak comes in a suede hardcover and includes three leaves of content – the blu-ray, the soundtrack CD and a host of card and paper extras. The soundtrack CD includes cues from both versions of the film along with five extra unreleased tracks – a track listing is included on a white card in the set.

The remaining extras include an 84 page booklet illustrated with black and white and colour photos, stills and images relating to the 11 contributions included within. Writers like Max Tessier, Stephen Thrower and Daniel Bird talk about doubles in the film, biographical background and interview the director (especially interesting for his views on Lynch and Argento). Furthermore we get lobby cards, new art based on the film and reproductions of flyers and more in a sumptuous package locked together magnetically and designed to perfection.


The best version of this film available with the best extras. Yet again a MV release feels a little like a small church with plenty inside to worship. Highly recommended.

John White

Updated: Jul 13, 2014

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