Possession (1981)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Cast: Sam Neill, Isabelle Adjani
Extras: Theatrical Trailers, Talent Bio

Lately, it has seemed that I am a magnet for bizarre films from Europe. But, at least my latest offering isn’t as obscure as some of the other recent films. Many horror fans caught ’Possession’ on video when it was first released by Vestron in the early ’80s. Unfortunately, that version was shorn of 45-minutes (!) of footage, so the film didn’t make a lot of sense, and was poorly received. Now, Anchor Bay has released the uncut version of ’Possession’ on DVD.

In the film, Mark (Sam Neill) returns home from a business trip, only to learn that his wife, Anna (Isabelle Adjani) has been having an affair. Mark does some investigating and learns that Anna has been seeing Heinrich (Heinz Bennet). Mark confronts Heinrich, who denies having seen Anna recently. Mark then begins to realize that there is much more going on than Anna’s infidelity. Anna has entered a world of madness where people have doppelgangers and tentacled monsters are common. Despite the obvious issues, Mark still loves Anna and puts his life and sanity at risk to get her back.

’Possession’ starts off as a typical domestic-problem film, but once we begin to understand that there’s something wrong with Anna, the film takes the audience into a completely unsuspected place. Director Andrzej Zulawski creates a cold and sinister world in ’Possession’. Most of the settings in the film are void of decorations and the Berlin Wall is clearly visible from Mark and Anna’s apartment. ’Possession’ is a tough film to watch, as we see the main characters go through physical and mental torment. Also, the icky special effects, created by Carlo Rambaldi, aren’t easy to stomach either. ’Possession’ is a serious and somber study of the dissolution of a marriage, which uses elements of the fantastic to help strengthen the narrative.

Anchor Bay has really outdone themselves with the presentation of ’Possession.’ The film is presented in an anamorphic widescreen, with the image letterboxed at 1.66:1. The picture is very crisp and clear, with only some mild defects in the source print (mainly scratches) noticable. The bottom line is that this doesn’t look like a European horror film from 1981. The image shows no grain and there is none of the darkening of the picture which is common of films of this nature. The color balancing has been handled well, as the stark white walls of the sets show no saturation. The audio on the DVD is a Dolby Digital Mono, which is adequate. The dialogue and sound effects are well mixed, but I still couldn’t understand a word that Isabelle Adjani said.

The DVD boasts an audio commentary with director Andrzej Zulawlski and biographer Dan Bird. Despite some difficulties with English, Zulawski speaks at length throughout the film. Bird does an excellent job of prompting Zulawski to touch on the making of the film, as well as the deeper meanings of the narrative. The DVD also offers two trailers — the US trailer is letterboxed at about 1.85:1, and the international trailer (which, of course, shows everything) is letterboxed at 1.66:1.