It might make you a little twisted.
If you never experienced all that, man, you might not dig all of POSSESSION. But for some of us, those who can--on a clear day in the San Fernando Valley--still hear colors and see sounds, a film like POSSESSION makes us realize that the ancient, semi-ancient, and recent history of the human race is all present in the current moment, clattering on the kitchen floor of our collective mind like a dropped casserole dish that grows Rob Bottin spider legs on contact with linoleum; unresolved European border tensions taking their toll on later generations later the way wings of butterflies in Jersey create tsunamis in Japan, even when they're still cocooned. It's all connected and suddenly you can see the interlocking serpentine tentacles connecting every groin, mouth, and fingertip in the whole of existence, which is not more infinite than you supposed at all, but really no bigger than a tomb.
Either way, prior knowledge of European history and mindsets is important to really dig Euro-horror, and even art films like Krzysztof Kieślowski's semi-redundantly-titled and, relatively overpraised "Three Colors Trilogy," which I never would have like had not my Argentine filmmaker ex-wife been around to explain things. If your knowledge of post-war European social psychology is incomplete then when it comes to these deep trenches of druggy sophisto shock, well, there's bound to be some bizarre iconographic mud sucking you down with the cigarette butts and tangy blood-flavored mud, which is the same as getting it, anyway.
Me, I'm not that well-versed in the Eastern European bloc, so the two versions of Adjani's character in the film--the helpful nurturing babysitter/teacher and the monster-loving schizophrenic-- might be a before/after Russian occupation thing and the monster the 'Big Other' of communism. When did the Wall come tumbling down? Wait, that was Germany. But West Germany is where this film is set (their apartment looks out over the Wall and I've no doubt those East German guards smoking and looking from far away up at the camera with neighborly disinterest, are real. But meanwhile everyone speaks English, except Adjani goes into French when torturing a girl in a ballet class in a super 8mm movie Neill's fellow cuckold, a sexually fluid and tantric fellow named Heinrich, sends over. My point? My Circe? My surcease of sorrow bodkin?.... it's got a point... sharp... sharply...
And when she moans up at the cross in a church with a piteous whine one senses Harvey Keitel stirring from his feeding, and making a mental note that would lay buried for 10 years until BAD LIEUTENANT.
The point is that if you're at all like me, the type of crazy psychedelic surfer who used to watch the R. Bud Dwyer suicide tape over and over, in quiet awe, like a baby with their first peek-a-boo game (one split second Dwyer's in the room, and then BAM - he is completely gone - where'd he go?), well, even then that prolonged miscarriage scene might be too much, though Adjani's ryhthmic spazzing out in some kind of one woman show of interpretive dance encompassing the history of mental illness before the Age of Clozapine--is really mind-bogglingly fearless and fully committed in ways I just don't think it's possible for American actresses to ever be. DAMN does Adjani go for it. She's got more gusto in this single scene than most American actresses muster in their entire careers. The English have maniacs like Kate Winslet, Australia Judy Davis, who was originally attached to POSSESSION since Zulawski and his casting director loved MY BRILLIANT CAREER (which was why they cast Sam Neill) and maybe her wanting to do it is why she wound up in a similar legless monster sex scene in NAKED LUNCH ten years later? It all fits, doctor, since the whole creature / pregnancy angle, a kind of symbol-made-flesh ala 'psychoplasmics' in THE BROOD, which Cronenberg made two years earlier. But whom do we have? No one --our actresses can afford good SSRI meds and the best clinical care Beverly Hills ha$ to offer.
Such things happen all the time, to those who dare to take the voyage into the maelstrom or walk that yellow "brick" road. Some of us are called to the curtain and bid look beyond, and some do, and they get white hair, if not a diploma. I've never seen a film before or since that made white such a violently post-modern wrenching force (not even in Kieślowski's WHITE or Argento's TENEBRE) except maybe in a humorous and romantic way, ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, wherein white swallows up whole bookstores and kitchens of Jim Carey's memory of Kate Winslet.
In fact, the landscape of POSSESSION could be summed up in terms of SUNSHINE's mind washing machine, with Sam Neill trapped in inescapable loops with the same woman in different forms, with Winslet's hair changes and bi-polar mood swings reflected in Adjani's careening back and forth between the sterile apartment she shares with Neill and their son, Bob, and this decayed East Berlin apartment building, with its goop-covered floor and writhing tentacled lover like a decayed animal carcass swathed in glistening rainbow brown blood / oil paint palette runoff and being devoured by long large white worms. "He's very tired, he's been making love to me all night," Adjani says of the beast to a horrified gay detective before bashing his brains in with a jar of paint. She's so crazy by then she makes Klaus Kinski seem like Water Pidgeon.
By this time Neill has more or less detoxed and is playing the clean-cut parent, subject to fits only when Adjani comes careening back to put laundry away (in the fridge) and throw some cold cuts from the pantry into her suitcase and carve herself up with an electric knife while shouting and convulsing like she's receiving electro-shock therapy in the midst of a MACBETH monologue. Her character splits between two poles, one Adjani as nurturing elementary school teacher potential love interest vs. homicidal birther/fucker/painter of her own monster (ala Susan Hogan and Samantha Eggers and in THE BROOD), blazing insane nightmare woman, shrieking and miscarrying an array of colors as if dissolving a painting in her womb to start again. (there's a kind of mention that she brought the ejected fetus whatever-thing over to that apartment and its been her sick lover ever since - is it a metaphor for art, a masterpiece, the way a true artist is in a state of exalted frenzied madness when working on their project, giving themselves over completely, maybe never to return, except in the form of that immortal art? It's ambiguous of course, cuz it's artsy first, horror second, but both far more than others.
Oh yeah, SAM... whom I never liked much in films like DEAD CALM or THE PIANO... though that's inevitably why he's often cast, there's just something about him that if you're a dog you'd want to bark at him. Often his characters need to be cock-blocked by some younger, looser man, i.e. Harvey Keitel, Billy Zane, even Jeff Goldblum, so his innate sexually frustrated petulance has context. But when delivered from being just a weird side platter of Pierce Brosnan /Anthony Perkins surf and turf, when given a part that calls for truly insane and giddy grace he's suddenly big as all the ocean and the land; he makes you want to keep an eye on him so he doesn't suddenly appear behind you, smiling and showing you his new razor from your insides out. What makes him such a good secret agent (his last mission was something across the Wall where he'd been sizing up some scientist defector in pink socks or something) lies in his ability to ride this tide of lunacy with confidence, able to match crazy for crazy, and then some. Wherever Adjani's crazy boat's going, he's going to match her, bob for bob. Sometimes going under, sometimes rising above, absorbing everything and everyone he sees, from his son's crashing toy airplanes to his rival's 'love of everything,' he's always more or less on the crest of that Poesy maelstrom.
Mason too is a guy who you can never quite trust no matter how refined and loquacious his character is onscreen. Well, maybe you do trust him for a few reels, but then he takes that cortisone again and he's at you with a knife, thinking you're his son.
Sometimes you can't get at the audience with a razor, so you have to use the only thing you can find, and sometimes that thing is named Sam Neill. POSSESSION stabs us with him until even the screaming sound of Stukas dive bombing his neighborhood to hell is like a soothing nursery school lullaby. It doesn't help, maybe, in our day and country, not to know exactly where to 'pinpoint' evil the way they could in 80s East Berlin, before the Wall fell... when the Wall was still there, and left a city cleft and splitting like Neil's face when riddled by bullets, before he's finally 'finished.' And the Wall comes down like his old corpse cocoon with a bloody thud, and the Coke Machine future comes clanging up the Elbe like a refunded pffenig.