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4.2
3,648 Ratings

Possession

Directed by Andrzej Żuławski
France, West Germany, 1981
Drama
  • English
  • English

Synopsis

A spiral staircase movie, a never-ending metaphysical game of cat-and-mouse, a moral aspiration to the Heavens, a “spotlight” on God, a scornful detective movie, a horror movie and frightful, high-octane baroque work—Possession is all of that at once.

Our take

Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neill square off in this legendary cult film from Polish visionary Andrzej Żuławski, a maddening psychological horror that explores, in bloody detail, the breakdown of a marriage. For her work, Adjani won the Best Actress prize at both Cannes and the Césars.

Possession Directed by Andrzej Żuławski

Awards & Festivals

Cannes Film Festival

1981 | Winner: Best Actress

1981 | Nominee: Palme d'Or

São Paulo International Film Festival

1981 | Winner: Critics Award

César Awards

1982 | Winner: Best Actress

Trying to synopsize Possession is next to impossible because it’s a film that has the feel and texture of a nervous breakdown; it’s cinema as fugue state. And Adjani, who won Best Actress at the 1981 Cannes Film Festival, is the whirling dervish at the center of it all. Few actresses have ever been given scenes to play like the one where Anna writhes through a subway tunnel as the camera turns pirouettes around her. It’s intense, terrifying, and unforgettable.
September 21, 2017
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…It is this directness, this clear and present horror that makes Possession so great and singular. Filmed in West Berlin, the film bears both the scars of World War II and the botched reconstructive surgery of the city’s Cold War division. A more politically minded film might have looked to the Wall as a metaphor for the disruptive and destructive separation between the couple. But Possession, like a Stephen King novel, consumes and obliterates social anxieties in favor of the primal.
March 28, 2016
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This dingy, claustrophobic fever-dream factory points to the origins of Żuławski’s fragmented, hysterical style: in a wartime reality where even relative safety resembled the stuff of nightmares.
April 21, 2018
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