Hazel Cills introduces Possession



Hazel Cills introduces Possession

By Hazel Cills

In 2021, cultural writer Hazel Cills joined Metrograph to introduce a screening of Possession.

Possession is available to watch via Metrograph At Home.

Hi. Thank you for having me. So, Possession is a film that is notoriously difficult to categorize. It begins as a tense, claustrophobic thriller and it kind of ends as a monster movie. It’s especially moving to see this restoration here now in theatre because of how incorrectly marketed Possession was to audiences. When it was released in 1981, it was banned in the UK and labelled a video nasty, and it was butchered in the editing room for American audiences. It’s a beautiful, brutal horror movie about a couple in the throes of a separation, inspired insanely by Andrzej Żuławski’s real-life divorce. Crazy man. And, you know, the destruction of a marriage or a familial bond is really ripe material in horror.

But something about Possession that really stays with me is that, rather than outside forces threatening to break down this marriage, it’s the couple’s breakdown that manifests as its own evil entity. Like the call is coming from the inside of the marriage, so to speak. It’s a film about desire and madness, and the need to control those we love. It also includes not just one of the greatest performances of Isabelle Adjani’s career but one of the greatest performances in film ever, in my opinion. Adjani refused to watch takes of herself while shooting this movie, and once told a reporter that it took years for her to get over the experience of making this movie. I personally think some of the greatest performances on-screen of madness and hysteria are indebted to the work that she does in this movie, the places that she pushes herself physically, and the grotesque ways in which she allows us to see her on-screen. I don’t think we would have Charlotte Gainsbourg in Antichrist (2009) without Possession; I don’t think we would have Isabelle Huppert in The Piano Teacher (2001) without Possession; many of David Lynch’s heroines’ performances are indebted to her work in this film, I think, and her acting is widely misunderstood. I feel like now it’s finally getting the attention it deserves. So thank you, Metrograph, for this incredible restoration. And I sincerely hope that every couple in the audience is still together by the end of this screening, God help us all.