Polish director Andrzej Zulawski‘s characters are almost always doing at least one (if not more) of the following: screaming, fighting, having sex. His films are full of B-movie hallmarks like excessive violence and nudity, all quite unnecessary to the flimsy plot. And Possession is a movie that, on it surface, is about a woman screwing a squid. Despite this, there’s a deep European intellectualism at play beneath everything. What the philosophical message behind the squid-f$cking is, I really couldn’t tell you, and I’m not sure if Zulawski himself could. But anyone who understands film to any degree will recognize that Possession is something else, and definitely not a b-movie – it just sounds like one.
Mark (Sam Neill) is a spy who’s just returned from some mission or something to find that his wife Anna (the gorgeous Isabelle Adjani) is not all that happy to see him again. “Can’t you see that you disgust me!” she shrieks at him, stumbling around their claustrophobic apartment, knocking everything over and creating a constant mess of the place. Mark gets the picture – there’s another guy. Apparently it’s not the new agey kung fu master Heinrich (Heinz Bennent) who’s captured his wife’s attentions, it’s someone else – so who is this guy that’s got her so head over heals crazy in love?
Desperate to find out, Mark hires a private eye to look into the matter. And what he finds is that Anna’s been shtupping what looks like a giant, vaguely-humanoid squid.
Though Possession starts a bit slow, once it gets going it becomes something incredible. It’s an insane movie, but its insanity is cogent, contained, and focused, rather than all-over-the-place, like in Zulawski’s (also excellent) The Devil, for instance. In both, though, Zulawski is trying to get at something about choice and evil; how humans are driven into the arms of the truly nefarious. Perhaps this is what also led him to focus La Femme Publique around the filming of Dostoevsky’s The Devils (also translated as The Possessed), which explores similar ideas of evil and nihilism.
These are very real concepts that exist in reality, but Zulawski must express them in biblical or mythological terms to display their hefty weight; the woman who sleeps with a squid is meant to exemplify the depth of depravity to which the human soul is capable of sinking. Indeed, that may be the philosophy behind Possession: the monster isn’t always the one making love to the beautiful woman, but rather, the beautiful woman making love to it.