Among many film fans was Brandon Cronenberg’s sci-fi horror film POSSESSOR last year was one of the best ever. The film was already shown at the Fantasy Film Festival in this country. Now it is getting a regular theatrical release in its unabridged version. And that’s exactly where it should be viewed – on the big screen. We reveal more about this in our review.
OT: Possessor (CAN/UK 2020)
Thanks to a new technology, company agent Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough) is able to penetrate other people’s bodies using brain implants. On behalf of her boss Girder (Jennifer Jason Leigh), she worked as a serial killer by convincing strangers to commit murders for the benefit of the company for which the two women work. But something goes wrong during one of these missions, which has long since become routine, and suddenly Vos finds herself in the body of a strange man (Christopher Abbott), whose identity threatens to erase her own…
When Brandon Cronenberg, son of the visionary director David Cronenberg, who played a key role in the body horror subgenre, presented his feature film debut “Antiviral” around nine years ago, he had the reaction to his bitter dystopia in which people in a not too distant future The viruses of respected personalities can be injected in order to get a little closer to their idols, probably imagined a little differently. The ingredients for his science fiction horror film with elements of body horror and splatter corresponded roughly to those that his famous father used all too often in the early years of his career with films like “The Fly”, “Parasite Killer”, “Videodrome” or To create “eXistenz” (masterpiece) works for eternity. It took a while for some projects, but today critics and audiences agree: Cronenberg is one of the most important filmmakers in his craft and it is not for nothing that he has a certain legendary status. “Antiviral” also divided opinion in 2012, but to date there has been no rehabilitation. Brandon Cronenberg failed to follow in his father’s big footsteps; Maybe that’s why it took a full eight years until he followed up with his second directorial work – with the exception of a few music videos. Years that, looking back, seem like a start. Because with his second album “Possessor”, Brandon goes straight to the side of his father David with a huge qualitative statement. Also because Cronenberg-Junior takes a much more minimalist approach to this than in his debut, which sometimes wants to do too many things at once, and yet doesn’t shy away from showing some rough peaks of violence, which gave the film a certain scandalous status and ensured that “Possessor” in this country can even be marketed as “Possessor Uncut”.
Karim Hussain, who also photographed “Hobo with a Shotgun,” was responsible for the precise camera work in “Possessor.”
With this we would have classified the previously contradictory information about the USA-language “Possessor” publication: Yes, the one with, among others, Andrea Riseborough (“Mandy”)Jennifer Jason Leigh (“extinction”) and Christopher Abbott (“Heading to the Moon”) A film with a top-class cast is actually coming to cinemas in this country in its entirety not as according to some early news in its R-rated version, in which “Possessor” was already shown in some US cinemas. The film has truly earned its FSK approval for ages 18 and up, but its scandalous status is only limited. In what is probably the most memorable scene, you can see in close-up how one eye of a man lying on the floor is first gleefully pulled out of the eye socket and then the chewing bar is demolished. An unpleasant sight, which, thanks to the smacking soundtrack, appears a bit rougher than the scene already is – not the only moment in which David Cronenberg’s influence as a creator of shock cinema that appeals to all the senses can be identified. Nevertheless, in its sheer drastic nature, “Possessor” is not significantly more explicit than other films in its genre. Its status as a “scandal film” can rather be explained by a detail in the final chord, when a film taboo that is still prevalent (at least in this country) is broken for another escalating act of violence. Because of the spoiler, we don’t want to go into further detail at this point, but we would like to point out that it is precisely in this scene that opinions will differ as to what is allowed to be shown and what is not; It’s not too drastic here either, it’s more about the question of who or what can be used as a victim in a (horror) film and whether there is a limit in this regard.
“The film certainly deserves its FSK approval for ages 18 and up, but its scandalous status is only conditional.”
The fact that the (undoubtedly brilliantly staged) peaks of violence in “Possessor” can be counted on one hand shows that Brandon Cronenberg had a lot to offer with his film, for which he not only took on the role of director but also the sole screenwriter more in mind than a banal splatter film. Most of the time in “Possessor” things progress very slowly. And the further he progresses in his plot, the more associative he becomes, until comparisons with Jonathan Glazer’s acclaimed science fiction drama “Under the Skin” are really obvious. Nevertheless, despite all the visual similarities, “Possessor” is the more straightforward film in terms of content. Thanks to its remarkably radical introduction (the film begins with a violent spike), the starting point is clear from the start and as the viewer progresses, you get enough insights into the world of the bold protagonist Tasya, who, as a futuristic version of a contract killer, is aloof person represents. Andrea Riseborough is perfect for this role and her performance is so precise that “Possessor” does not require any forced explanatory dialogue. The meaningful opening and the meaningful interaction between Tasya and her boss Girder are enough to classify the situation. Overall, the premise of “Possessor” is surprisingly minimalist. Only when Brandon Cronenberg leaves the narrative level of reality in the second half of the film and moves an important part of the plot to another level is it solely the production itself that gives the film more complexity.
The situation will soon escalate at this noble event…
As a result, Brandon Cronenberg also manages to load his film with (more) meaning in terms of content. It illustrates – curiously similar to the Pixar masterpiece “Soul” – spaces that have previously existed primarily in theory, which means that “Possessor” gives rise to a feeling for the, in the truest sense of the word, the unimaginable, or better: the intangible. In this case, however, it is not about how a soul comes into being and what constitutes it. Instead, Cronenberg and his cameraman Karim Hussain illustrate (“Hobo with a Shotgun”) a battle of different personalities that takes place inside a single character. Hussain’s visual powers are sometimes more, sometimes less abstract, but in the end Cronenberg always chooses the most direct path to answer open questions and thus advance the story. This means that “Possessor” as a whole can be interpreted in very different ways, but what it shows without any corresponding effort at interpretation is largely clear. An observation that unfortunately doesn’t only benefit the ending, when Cronenberg brings back memories of “Inception” with his very last scene – compared to the rest, it seems rather clumsy. But ultimately “Possessor” is far less a film about the “what” and more about the “how”. It’s a good thing that this “how” is much stronger than the “what” anyway.
“Cronneberg illustrates – curiously similar to the Pixar masterpiece “Soul” – spaces that have previously existed primarily in theory, which means that “Possessor” gives rise to a feeling for the, in the truest sense of the word, the unimaginable, or better: the intangible.”
Karim Hussain creates such precise images and transitions, mostly at Tasya’s eye level, that Andrea Riseborough almost floats through “Possessor”. He takes a lot of time to establish new set pieces and relies on a cold, no less fascinating atmosphere. In the score by Jim Williams (“Raw”) In addition, those sounds that have a melody inherent in his compositions are less likely to be remembered. Instead, it is primarily the isolated, dissonant tone sequences that keep the tension in “Possessor” constantly high. It’s like anything could happen at any second. And although the premise of the film would even support it, Brandon Cronenberg forgoes the ultimate escalation and instead prefers to rely on several smaller ones. This not only makes his story more unpredictable, but also shows that you don’t necessarily need a lot of fanfare to cause a stir. His father already knew that.
Conclusion: “Possessor” is a visually strong and acoustically outstanding science fiction horror film that, with the exception of a few violent spikes, works entirely thanks to its chilly, unpredictable atmosphere. Andrea Riseborough’s performance is just as unpretentious as the film itself, which in terms of content comes across as a twisted hybrid of Pixar’s “Soul” and Jonathan Glazer’s “Under the Skin”. Only in the FSK 18 version.
“Possessor” can be seen in the unabridged version in USA cinemas from July 1st.