Taglines: Murder. Evil. Infidelity. Madness.
During a secretive business trip away, Mark learns that his wife Anna is growing restless in what he believed was their happy marriage. Upon his return home, he learns from her that she wants a divorce. They both go through a series of different emotions related to their situation, Mark’s which is generally obsessive about learning why Anna, who he still loves, wants the divorce, and Anna’s which is generally increasingly histrionic in getting away from Mark.
Caught in the middle is their infant son Bob, who Mark uses as a gage to Anna’s mental state. Anna states that her want for the divorce is not because of another man, but Mark finds out that Anna has a lover named Heinrich. In the meantime, Mark also meets Bob’s teacher Helen, who looks exactly like Anna, but is her polar opposite in temperament. Starting a relationship with Helen lessens his obsession with Anna.
Possession is a 1981 French-German horror drama directed by Andrzej Żuławski and starring Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neill. The plot obliquely follows the relationship between an international spy and his wife, who begins exhibiting increasingly disturbing behavior after asking him for a divorce. Filmed in Berlin in 1980, the film debuted at the Cannes Film Festival, where Isabelle Adjani won the award for Best Actress for her performance. The film later developed a cult following.
About the Story
Mark (Sam Neill) is a spy returning home from an espionage mission (the nature of this mission is vague, but it involves long trips abroad, cash stuffed into briefcases, and vials of secret liquids) to find that his wife, Anna (Isabelle Adjani), wants a divorce. She won’t say why, but insists it’s not because she’s found someone else.
Though Mark would rather stay with Anna and work things out, he turns the apartment and custody of their young son, Bob, over to her. Living alone, he begins to obsess over her, making dozens of calls, and seemingly going mad. He pays a visit to their flat only to find Bob alone, unkempt, and neglected. When Anna returns, he refuses to leave her alone with the child but attempts to make amends. He stays at the apartment to care for Bob but Anna leaves in the middle of the night.
Mark receives a phone call from Anna’s lover, Heinrich (Heinz Bennent), telling him that Anna is with him. He then gets Heinrich’s phone number from Anna’s friend, Margie. The next day, Mark meets Bob’s teacher, Helen (also played by Isabelle Adjani). She looks exactly like Anna but with brilliant green eyes and is calm and kind where Anna is hysterical.
Mark pays a visit to Heinrich who swears he didn’t call telling Mark that Anna needed space; he has not seen her, having been away on a business trip himself. Mark attacks Heinrich but is beaten bloody by Heinrich.
Mark returns home to find Anna who is vague on her whereabouts when confronted. He beats her and she storms out but he follows, apologizing, attempting reconciliation. She leaves him alone on the street. On his way back to the flat, he encounters Margie, whose left leg is in a cast, and he tells her, “I loathe you” when she offers to look after Bob. Mark has a meeting with a private investigator, then returns to the flat where he and Margie embrace in the bedroom.
The next day, Mark and Anna have another extreme argument during which she cuts her own neck with an electric knife. Mark tends the wound and then sits forlornly in the kitchen, cutting his own arm with the knife. She leaves again – going off to her mysterious place, her neck bandaged.
Following Anna around the city, the private investigator soon discovers Anna’s other apartment. The investigator informs Mark of his discovery, then enters the apartment, posing as a building manager. He is astonished to find a bizarre creature in the bedroom. Anna kills the investigator with a broken bottle.
Meanwhile, Mark begins a relationship with Helen. When she stays the night, Bob is awakened by nightmares, crying out for his mother. Helen apologizes and leaves saying she should not have attempted to replace Anna.
Zimmerman, the lover of the missing private detective, approaches Mark to inquire about his whereabouts. Mark gives him the address of Anna’s mysterious apartment. When Zimmerman goes to Anna’s apartment, he discovers the freakish creature as well as his dead lover’s body. Anna proclaims that the creature “is very tired. He made love to me all night,” and “He’s still unfinished, you know.” She then violently beats Zimmerman when he attempts to shoot her.
Anna, returning to the flat she shares with Mark, continues her erratic behavior, putting clothes in the refrigerator and food in the bedroom. She then tells Mark about her miscarriage, which she credits for causing her nervous breakdown. In a flashback, Anna, on her way home from market, has what appears to be a seizure of epic violence as she walks through the subway, which ends with her on the floor of the passageway, oozing blood and fluids from every orifice. She tells Mark, “What I miscarried there was Sister Faith and what was left was Sister Chance.”
She leaves him again and Mark calls Heinrich, giving him Anna’s address. He attempts to make love to her but finds the creature, now more developed but still monstrous, in her bedroom. Anna then reveals the grim fruits of her endeavors: a collection of body parts in her refrigerator, presumably those of the dead detective and Zimmerman. She attacks Heinrich with a knife and he flees, bleeding, to a pay phone to call Mark. Anna, meanwhile, prepares to make love to the creature.
Heinrich tells Mark what he has seen and begs to be picked up from the closest bar. Mark goes to Anna’s apartment first and discovers the remains in the refrigerator, but it appears as if the creature is gone. He then crosses to the bar where he murders Heinrich in the bathroom, making it look as if he drowned in his own vomit. He then returns to Anna’s apartment and destroys it by igniting the gas stove and blowing the place up. He escapes on Heinrich’s abandoned motorcycle.
Directed by: Andrzej Zulawski
Starring: Isabelle Adjani, Sam Neill, Margit Carstensen, Heinz Bennent, Johanna Hofer, Carl Duering, Shaun Lawton, Leslie Malton
Screenplay by: Andrzej Zulawski
Cinematography by: Bruno Nuytten
Film Editing by: Marie-Sophie Dubus, Suzanne Lang-Willar
Costume Design by: Ingrid Zoré
Art Direction by: Holger Gross
Music by: Andrzej Korzynski
Distributed by: Limelight International
Release Date: October 14, 1983