Possession (The Night the Screaming Stops)

1983

Possession (The Night the Screaming Stops)

Critics Consensus

Blending genres as effectively as it subverts expectations, Possession uses powerful acting and disquieting imagery to grapple with complex themes.

85%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 20

79%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 4,375
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Movie Info

Usually misattributed to the horror genre, this challenging and highly unusual drama stars Isabelle Adjani as a young woman who forsakes her husband (Sam Neill) and her lover (Heinz Bennent) for a bizarre, tentacled creature that she keeps in a run-down Berlin apartment. In the beginning, her husband knows nothing about the monster and sincerely believes that his wife is insane. He has her tailed by private detectives, whom she kills and feeds to the creature. Still unaware of what has happened, the husband contends with the reserved and inadvertently seductive presence of his wife's look-alike (also played by Adjani), a schoolteacher who frequently comes to tutor his son while his wife is away. Though tempted by her quiet goodness and beauty, he is still passionately in love with his wife and even after he finds out about the murders, he stays by her side and helps her conceal her crimes. Filmed amidst the oppressive backdrop of the Berlin Wall by the expatriate Polish director Andrzej Zulawski (who was unable to work in his homeland after too many clashes with the authorities), the picture is so relentlessly intense and so deliberately esoteric, that most viewers would find it too hard to connect with. Still its symbolism, its unbridled and flashy directorial style, and the tour de force performance by Isabelle Adjani earned this unique tale a cult following in Europe. The version originally released in the U.S. had 45 minutes chopped out; in this form, it is barely comprehensible and looks like a cheap, gory feast.

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Critic Reviews for Possession (The Night the Screaming Stops)

All Critics (20) | Top Critics (3)

Audience Reviews for Possession (The Night the Screaming Stops)

  • Mar 30, 2016
    Intelligent, manic and a scary as hell. There are many references to the duality of the married couple and the late Berlin wall era Germany setting, which also calls to mind the very idea of possession in terms of one person to another, and the possession of one to their belief system, and in a more surfaced horror genre-minded way of supernatural possession. It operates on several levels, and its hard to believe this isn't mentioned more often or a bigger part of the film history zeitgeist, as its pretty much a horror masterpiece. Adjani's performance is still inspiring modern actresses such as Rosamund Pike's performance in Massive Attack's video for Voodoo in my Blood.
    Hayden B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 25, 2013
    A crazy and deranged mystery film with great cinematography and a hell of a performance by Isabelle Adjani.
    ZACHO D Super Reviewer
  • Apr 01, 2013
    Possession is weird. Really really weird. It doesn't fit cleanly into any single genre, but it could be loosely classified as a bizarre drama mixed with a horror film, with a tentacle monster thrown in for good measure. It's about Marc and Anna, a husband and wife (played by Sam Neill and Isabelle Adjani) whose relationship falls rapidly apart when the wife spontaneously decides she wants a divorce, insisting that it's not because she's found another man. However, after a bit of obsessive sleuthing Marc discovers that she is having an affair with a German man named Heinrich, along with a second affair with a disgusting creature living in the bathroom of her second apartment. If that sounds creepy and bizarre, it's even moreso than you would expect. The characters speak in dialogue that feels very odd at times and contains the occasional thought-provoking statement on religion. The discussion of religion didn't really make sense to me because I didn't sense any religious themes in the movie, but the dialogue is interesting and well-written nonetheless. Isabelle Adjani adds quite a bit of character to an already unusual movie by giving an absolutely insane performance that demands your attention just based on its sheer craziness. Imagine every Nicolas Cage freak-out combined into one character, and that's about 1/10 of the insanity that she puts into nearly every scene she's in. Adjani's especially shocking in one extraordinary scene in a tunnel in which she takes crazy acting to new heights. She basically spends the scene screaming at the top of her lungs, wildly flailing her arms, smashing her groceries against a wall, and finally emitting blood and other unidentifiable fluids from her ears and mouth. Needless to say the movie is rarely subtle. A lot of the movie is very confusing, and it's easy to get lost quickly with the plot which can be a little frustrating, but the movie has enough strong points and entertaining scenes to balance out the confusing plot and seemingly indecipherable meaning. Possession is far from a normal horror movie and it's even further from a normal drama, but for the miniscule audience that enjoys obscure movies involving extramarital affairs with mysterious tentacle beasts, it has just enough to make it worth checking out, but not necessarily a must-see movie.
    Joey S Super Reviewer
  • Jul 16, 2012
    So, am I supposed to feel frustrated and extremely annoyed by the end of the movie, because that's the way the director thinks we should feel like about the breakdown of a marriage? Congrats, mission accomplished, you've just made an unbearable movie. It tried to be riddled with symbolism about relationships, commitment, betrayal, faithfullness but it's just pretentious beyond words and uses completly derivative imagery to achieve such goals. Most of them completly excused, repetitive and add nothing to the "point" of the movie. Plus, it's a really ugly movie to look at: bland, horrible use of steadycam and travel shots, toneless soundtrack and list can go on indefinently. And the horror twist everyone talks about? Really, that's the big selling for you guys? I'm not even gonna start on that. It's so anti climatic everytime it happens, it just looses the impact it should have and goes into exploitative territory very quickly in the end. Now let's get to the worse of it. The acting. Now THAT Mr. Zulawski is an accomplishment on itself. How to use two magnificent actors so poorly is beyond words. Worse is probably how they went along with this. Adjani just gets annoying beyond anything you can conceive. On the first half, she's a scream queen, on the second, words just can't describe how ridiculous things go. Also props for the hilarious german lover which is something that really needs to be witnessed. It certainly is interesting the way it explores the themes at hand but the execution is so ridiculous that the train derails really quickly. I've had my share of experimental, heavy symbolic ridden flicks and boy do I love to explore them when they're done well. Look at Jodorowski, look at Cronenberg, look at Lynch. This is just pretentious garbage.
    Francisco G Super Reviewer

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