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With their marriage in pieces, Anna and Mark’s tense relationship has become a psychotic descent into screaming matches, violence and self-mutilation. Believing his wife’s only lover is the sinister Heinrich, Mark is unaware of the demonic, tentacled cre ature that Anna has hidden away for liaisons in a deserted apartment and will stop at nothing to protect.
For more about Possession and the Possession Blu-ray release, see Possession Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on June 30, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: Andrzej Zulawski
Writer: Andrzej Zulawski
Starring: Isabelle Adjani, Sam Neill, Heinz Bennent
» See full cast & crew
Possession Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, June 30, 2013
Polish director Andrzej Zulawski's "Possession" (1981) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Second Sight Films. The supplemental features on the disc include an original trailer for the film; video interview with director Andrzej Zulawski; video interview with composer Andrzej Korzynski; video interview with French producer Christian Ferry; audio commentary by director Andrzej Zulawski; audio commentary by co-producer Frederic Tuten; short featurette focusing on the life and work of Polish artist Barbara Baranowska; and more. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
This film can confuse those who have never experienced life on the other side of the Iron Curtain. This is where Andrzej Zulawski, who directed it, came from. He started his career in Communist Poland where his early films were censored and banned by the red apparatchiks because they did not like their subversive tone. In the early '70s, the frustrated Zulawski moved to France where he has been living ever since. Possession is the Polish director's fourth feature film and without a shadow of a doubt his most disturbing one.
The film follows closely a young couple living in Berlin during the Cold War era. Marc (Sam Neill, My Brilliant Career, The Piano) is an ambitious professional who regularly reports to important people that make important decisions. After one such report, he returns home and discovers that his wife Anna (Isabelle Adjani, Nosferatu the Vampyre, Subway) has started seeing another man. Barely able to contain his anger, he hires a private detective to follow Anna and find out when and where she meets her lover.
The detective follows Anna to a cheap apartment in a rundown building only a few blocks away from the Wall. He then discovers that Anna has not one but two lovers. However, before he can contact Marc and let him know, something terrible happens to him.
Meanwhile, after a series of violent quarrels Marc forces Anna to confess that she has been cheating on him. She also reveals the identity of her first lover (Heinz Bennent, The Serpent's Egg, The Tin Drum), a new-age cocky playboy well versed in kung fu who lives with his elderly mother. Marc confronts him, hoping that he would go away, but Anna, now seriously depressed, abandons both men and goes back to the cheap apartment where her second lover has been waiting for her.
Possession tells two very different stories. The first is about the violent and rather bizarre collapse of Marc and Anna's marriage. This is the story most critics in the West love to write about. It is hardly surprising because it is obviously the only story that makes sense to them. This story is also the reason why Possession is frequently labeled "horror film".
The second story is about a very cruel closed system that is slowly but effectively transforming people into monsters. For some the transformation is so disturbing that they can't endure it and lose their minds before the process is completed. Director Zulawski had firsthand experience with this process but managed to escape the system before it was too late. In Possession, Marc and Anna are not so lucky.
The excess and gore in this film effectively mask Zulawski's condemnation of the system. In 1978, this exact same approach within a different context was used by the Polish director in his On the Silver Globe, whose production was halted by the Polish authorities after they became suspicious of its intent. (On the Silver Globe is a science fiction film but also with a clear political message). In other words, the "horror" in Possession is nothing more than a needed distraction in what is essentially an angry political film.
Adjani's performance in Possession is undoubtedly one of the greatest from the early '80s. It is indescribably intense and truly unsettling. In 1981, the French beauty won a well deserved Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival.
Possession was lensed by renowned French cinematographer Bruno Nuytten (Andre Tecnine's Barocco, Claude Berri's Jean de Florette/Manon des sources). Some of the special effects in the film were done by the great Carlo Rambaldi (Ridley Scott's Alien, Steven Spielberg's E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial).
Possession Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.67:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Andrzej Zulawski's Possession arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Second Sight Films.
Excluding some light banding that I spotted (the most obvious example being early into the film, in the sequence where Sam Neill and Isabelle Adjani's characters meet in front of the apartment complex) as well as some low noise that occasionally pops up, the technical presentation of this once quite controversial film is indeed very impressive. It is also quite the revelation. There is an entirely new color scheme that apparently reinstates the type of look Andrzej Zulawski desired and all visual effects, most notably solarization enhancements, that were added to the U.S. re-cut version of the film are now completely removed. Needless to say, if you are familiar only with the U.S. re-cut version of Possession, more than likely you are going to be quite surprised by the look of this new Director's Cut of the film.
Image depth and clarity are very good. The outdoor footage, in particular, looks quite impressive. The heavy and rather depressing dark grays, blues, browns, and blacks of West Berlin are very effectively reproduced (see screencaptures # 2 and 5). Contrast levels fluctuate, especially during the indoor footage, but the rapid balance shifts are clearly intended. (Compare screencaptures #3 and 4 to see what some of these contrast fluctuations look like). There are no traces of excessive degraining corrections. Also, there are no traces of problematic sharpening adjustments. Unsurprisingly, Possession has a strong organic look. Lastly, there are no large damage marks, cuts, debris, warps, or stains to report in this review. All in all, while I think that there is some room for minor improvements, the current presentation of Possession is indeed enormously satisfying. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray release. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Possession Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray release: English LPCM 1.0. For the record, Second Sight Films have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
I was very much looking forward to experiencing this film with a lossless track as there are a number of very intense scenes in it which I knew would be a lot more powerful on Blu-ray. I was definitely not disappointed. The famous miscarriage subway scene, in particular, cannot possibly be described with simple words. There are some minor fluctuations in terms of dynamics and intensity, but they have everything to do with the film's original sound design. The dialog is clean, stable, and easy to follow. There are no audio dropouts or distortions to report in this review.
Possession Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Possession Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Congratulations to everyone that helped make this impressive release possible. Not only does Andrzej Zulawski's Possession look the best it ever has, but the supplemental features included on the Blu-ray are some of the best I've seen produced for a film of this caliber. I sincerely hope that Mondo Vision's rumored release of Possession isn't too far behind because it will be a real shame if North American film aficionados did not get a chance to experience this truly unique film on Blu-ray. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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Possession Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Andrzej Zulawski's Possession Detailed - April 26, 2013
British distributors Second Sight Films have revealed the supplemental features that will be included on their upcoming Blu-ray release of controversial Polish director Andrzej Zulawski's Possession (1981), starring Isabelle Adjani, Sam Neill, and Margit Carstensen. ...
• Andrzej Zulawski's Possession Heading to Blu-ray - November 16, 2012
British distributors Second Sight Films have revealed that they are planning to bring to Blu-ray Polish director Andrzej Zulawski's cult film Possession (1981), starring Isabelle Adjani, Sam Neill, Heinz Bennent, and Margit Carstensen. The release will feature ...
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