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 still hear colors and see sounds, the ancient, semi-ancient, and recent history of the human race is always clattering on the kitchen floor of our collective mind like a dropped casserole dish that grows Rob Bottin spider legs on contact with linoleum; European border tensions live in our sacral chakras, interlocking serpentine tentacles connect every groin, mouth, and fingertip in the whole of existence, which is not more infinite than a tomb, to our breathing. The flushing of the toilet sounds like the diving of Stuka followed by VE day revels. which in East Berlin were not celebrations but the screams of women being mauled by drunken Russian soldiers. Even if If your knowledge of post-war European social psychology and bad trip acid horror iconography is incomplete well, there's bound to be something in POSSESSION still able to suck you down with the cigarette butts into the tangy blood-flavored mud of 70s Euro-horror, which is the same really as just shrugging your shoulders and sashaying toward the exit while the huns are distracted.
Set in West Germany, in an apartment with windows that looks out over the Wall so you can see East German guards smoking and looking at you from far away up at the camera, feigning neighborly disinterest. But meanwhile everyone speaks English all the time, except when 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? Sharp as an unmuddied lake, sir.
And when she moans up at the cross in a church with a piteous whine one senses Harvey Keitel stirring from his noon feeding, and making a mental note that would lay buried for 10 years until BAD LIEUTENANT.
Perhaps even if you're at all like me, laughing hysterically at the hijinx of that film, the type of crazy psychedelic surfer who used to watch the R. Bud Dwyer suicide tape over and over 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 in the tunnel scene might be too much. 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, nor would they want to, for certainly it won't win them an Oscar. Adjani could give a shit about your Oscars; she just goes for it with more gusto than most American actresses ever dare muster without an A for 'Art' burnished on their chest, not this isn't artsy. Has America women this crazy? 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--was done by Cronenberg two years earlier, with super crazy (Brit) Samantha Egger. But whom do we have, you know, that don't out secretly Canadian or borne in a commune? No one --our actresses can afford good SSRI meds and the best clinical care Beverly Hills ha$ to offer.
In fact, the hair and split subject aspects of POSSESSION are there in 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 before bashing out a gay cop intruder's brains in with a jar of paint.
At such time, Adjani 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 Egger 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?
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; he makes you want to keep an eye on him so he doesn't suddenly appear behind you, or show 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 and eye for eye madness glint. 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 reacting and seeing deep, riding 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.
Sometimes you can't get at the audience with a razor, so you have to use the only thing you can find that's even sharper, 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 and the scorching beauty of Adjani like a freezing of the blood in the veins and on the floor.
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, and America, before slashers went out of vogue. Cleft and splitting like Neil's face when riddled by bullets, before he's finally 'finished,' when 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, man will we be ready even here in the States, to admit it was maybe not after all, so simple.