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November 17 - 25, 2012

Andrzej Zulawski's Possession

Saturday November 17 at 7pm
Saturday November 17 at 9:30pm
Friday November 24 at 7pm
Sunday November 25 at 4:30pm
Sunday November 25 at 7pm


Directed by Andrzej Zulawski. With Isabelle Adjani, Sam Neill, Margit Carstensen
France/West Germany 1981, 35mm, color,
127 min

Polish writer-director Andrei Zulawski (b. 1940) remains a controversial figure among cinephiles. Working first in Poland and later in France, his no-holds-barred filmmaking has generated a number of unnerving works from various genres: absurdist science fiction that fuses Tarkovsky and Herzog, Kafkaesque black comedy-cum-war film, and sanguinary melodrama. Topping them all is this feverish character study of a man who comes unglued when his wife leaves him. Here Zulawski blends Polanskiesque uncanny and Bergmanian psychodrama with the then-burgeoning subgenre of body horror associated with Alien and early Cronenberg. In addition, the setting – a grim Berlin neighborhood, near the Berlin Wall – suggests that the film may also be a particularly abject political allegory. The nightmarish result became an immediate cult classic, even though it was shorn of so much of its sex and violence for its initial US release that it lost a third of its running time. This re-release of the full-length version gives audiences a chance to marvel at the fearless performances by Sam Neill and especially Isabelle Adjani as both the faithless wife and her doppelganger. — David Pendleton

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Harvard Film Archive • Carpenter Center • 24 Quincy Street • Cambridge MA 02138 • 617-495-4700