Polish director Andrzej Żuławski’s 1981 “Possession” remains one of the most demented movies of all time, constantly careening from mad creature-feature horror movie to Bergman-esque marital breakdown and back again. (All amply aided by special effects from “Alien” master Carlo Rambaldi.) And while the film won Isabelle Adjani the Best Actress prize at Cannes for her ferociously engulfing performance as a woman coming down with a hallucinatory rage, “Possession” didn’t make much impact at the time of its release. When it finally did come to the United States, “Possession” arrived as a mangled studio recut that mostly omitted the divorce happening between Adjani and Sam Neill’s characters, which is the dark heart of the film.
This arthouse horror shocker has gone on to amass a cult following in recent years, and it looks to engage new audiences thanks to an upcoming 4K restoration from Metrograph Pictures. The new print will first bow at the upcoming Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas, before moving on to open exclusively at the Metrograph in New York and on the theater’s digital platform October 1. A nationwide expansion will follow on October 15.
Here’s the synopsis from Metrograph: “Banned upon its original release in 1981, Andrzej Żuławski’s stunningly choreographed nightmare of a marriage unraveling is an experience unlike any other. Professional spy Mark (Neill) returns to his West Berlin home to find his wife Anna (Isabelle Adjani, in a role that earned her Best Actress at Cannes) insistent on a divorce. As Anna’s frenzied behavior becomes ever more alarming, Mark discovers a truth far more sinister than his wildest suspicions. With its pulsating score, visceral imagery, and some of the most haunting performances ever captured on screen, Possession is cinematic delirium at its most intoxicating.”
The movie remains notorious for driving its actors insane. Adjani struggled with post-traumatic stress after the making of the movie, which calls upon her to deliver a demonic physical performance. Neill recently said, “I call it the most extreme film I’ve ever made, in every possible respect, and he asked of us things I wouldn’t and couldn’t go to now. And I think I only just escaped that film with my sanity barely intact.”
Check out a new teaser for the re-release below.