Monday, 9 December 2013

Possession - subway scene

Possession is a 1981 French cult horror film directed by Andrzej Żuławski and starring Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neill.

Anna tells Mark about her miscarriage, which she credits for causing her nervous breakdown. In a flashback, Anna, on her way home from market, has what appears to be a seizure of epic violence as she walks through the subway, which ends with her on the floor of the passageway, oozing blood and fluids from every orifice. She tells Mark, “What I miscarried there was sister faith and what was left was sister chance.”

This one has to be seen twice. Once on a visceral - I can't believe what I'm seeing sitting on the edge of your seat with your mouth open -level. The second time on an intellectual - aha I think get some of the allegory but it still kinda doesn't add up - level. All in all, you haven't quite seen acting until you've seen Isabelle Adjani breaking apart, or rather, literally, oozing apart, in a subway tunnel. Linda Blair's got nothing on her. Speaking of oozing, the camera-work is simply unbelievable. The uninterrupted shot of the drunken Heinrich spinning around in the stairway is choreographed in a way that makes the camera seem immaterial.

In one of the setpieces of the film, Anna goes completely berserk in an abandoned subway, screaming, gyrating, smashing her groceries, howling, crying, rolling around on the food-strewn ground for what seems like ages. To cap it all off, she seems to suffer some sort of horrendous miscarriage, red and white fluids oozing out of every orifice, especially the obvious one. I can't begin to impart the intensity of this scene, but Adjani's acting prowess carries the sheer horror of what Anna's experiencing far more than any special effects, which are totally convincing anyway. We return to Anna talking to Mark, so this event could have happened in the past, and could, in fact, have been the birth of the creature, I'm not sure. We're never told explicitly where this creature has come from, but we can assume Anna's bitterness, misery, lust and madness has become a tumour-like physical form, managing to somehow be born into the physical world.
Boris Lugosi

The disturbingly fierce staging and performance of the subway miscarriage lends to an interpretation of this scene as the manifestation of Anna’s one and only true possession. Not only does the subway perfectly embody the mental atmosphere under which Anna might have experienced a piercing violation of her reality by a higher power, but it also captures the physical anguish which might accompany such an ordeal. This demonstrates physical as well as metaphysical control over her ‘soul,’ as Heinrich’s mother might put it. Anna describes this moment to Mark near the end of the film:

‘What I miscarried there was sister faith and what was left is sister chance. So I had to take care of my faith to protect it.’ (Anna)
‘And that’s what you’re doing there?’ (Mark)
‘Yes.’ (Anna)
‘For the first time, you look vulgar to me.’ (Mark)

This dialogue reveals that Anna’s miscarriage had multiple consequences. Not only does it date the creature’s birth, it also symbolizes the fissure of Anna’s being into two separate parts. With no other explanations provided, we are left to conclude that Anna had a deus-ex-machina. Out of no other solution to her internal conflict, a divine possession of her united being pierced through her and made the intersection of order and chaos inside Anna impossible. The literal consequence of such an event would be a bipolarity, the impossibility of Anna to be both stable and unstable, and an incompatibility with existence let alone the strifes of marriage and society. (Quick return to semantics: ‘divine’ here connotes something unknowable and vast in its power, and like the intersection of many opposites in this film–pleasure and pain, freedom and imprisonment, etc–we could easily use the word ‘infernal’ here. The nature of the unknowable cannot exactly be known besides through its profound, obfuscated effect on Anna.)

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