Possession (Andrzej Żuławski, 1981)

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Re: Possession (Andrzej Żuławski, 1981)

#26 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Mar 16, 2021 8:33 pm

Sloper wrote:
Sat Mar 06, 2021 8:58 am
Like feihong, I also don’t know what to make of the doubles getting together at the end. Helen knows trauma in its more direct and obvious forms, and has fewer illusions about it; monster-Mark is born from Anna’s trauma, but he does (and says) so little in the film that it’s hard to know what to make of him; and why does Bob not want his new mother to open the door to his new father? In the ‘Other Side of the Wall’ documentary you get a glimpse of the final page of the original script, and it looks like the flashing lights and air-raid noises are not in there; instead, the film ends with Helen walking towards the door, and we never learn whether she reaches and opens it. In the ending we have now, she turns from the door (whose glass pane is being pawed at by the new Mark) and looks blankly into the camera. I feel like too many ideas are crammed in here, and I sort of wish the film had a simpler ending, but perhaps the messiness of it is part of the point. What do we do with ourselves, and each other, and our jobs and our families and so on, in this world that has no idea how to remember and process the traumas of the past (or of the present)? The walls we put up make things worse rather than better, and when the walls come down we lose our minds and bleed to death.

So perhaps the ending is asking, can we re-make ourselves from scratch, see the world through different eyes, find a way of living with everything that’s happened and everything we’ve done, and thereby find a way of living with each other?
I really like this reading, and the way I see it there's a bifurcated set of philosophies emerging (perhaps emulating the doubles' opposing functions). In one sense, Sloper's rhetorical question casts a cynical light on our inability to escape our circumstances. By fantastically supposing that the only way to do this is to physically evolve into a place of rejecting conventional forms (a human body, familiar expressions) of affection, we become cognizant of the hopelessness to engage with the world as it is, and with ourselves as we are, with the tools we have. The other, more optimistic option, is that as human beings we are survivors, resilient creatures who can and will come to transcend the conservative structures and modalities of communicating and 'being' when we are inevitably pushed to that breaking point.

While there's an empowering aspect to this view objectively, it's still quite depressing from our vantage point. In a way Zulawski prompts the ultimate existential horror revelation by forcing us to render ourselves and our skills obsolete via utilizing esoteric and enigmatic ideas to refuse to support us in coming to this conclusion. It's a case where we need to use all of our will power to struggle to arrive at a diagnosis we cannot cope with; no matter how weak and ill-equipped and narrow-minded our current psychology is, and how we may have reached the limitations of our power, facing a social darwinist extinction due to our psychosocial rigidity (Mark's answer to the phone at the beginning tells all- he's an emotional wreck but can only reply, "It's... not proper"). The notion of forfeiting all we know may be theoretically cleansing on a path to rebirth, but it's terribly painful and inconceivable to imagine relinquishing family, love, identity, etc. as we know them, a process we associate with death as it essentially is our death. The only element to this that helps soften the blow (and also infects me with dread about what the future holds) is Sloper's dissection of the adaptable stimulation necessary to energize and perhaps even stabilize this couple from their suffocation of "domestic normalcy." Is what we're witnessing a deep-rooted natural (or artificially-imposed unnatural) sadomasochistic pleasure; or a self-preserving (or deliberately constructed) vital escape from the now-sterile mundanity by taking on twisted roles and even destroying the image of the other? I think assigning a clear answer would be too neat, but we see this deviation from the "norms" in increased social segregation through reinforces of individualization, fetishization, etc. in our current society, which helps reflect the relatability and foreboding terror in the extremes this film presents.

There are symptoms of where we are now in the behaviors and reactions of this couple, and one idea the film proposes for me is: have we outlived or outgrown our capacity to live as we do? And by "capacity" I mean not just physical or psychological capability, but on a spiritual level, or the last functional need on Maslow's totem pole: self-actualization.. Can we even remain interested and get any meaning or achieve a satisfying identity or connection? I think our society has creatively adapted around this question for some time now, and this film uses the devastating heartbreak of a marriage ending- which feels like the world ending- to ask this fair and relevant question. What may be our tragedy is someone else's Big Bang awakening of optimistic life within an internal logic (be it the start of a new relationship or a new species taking over through the destruction of our lives).. but that doesn't take away from the fact that this destroys many of the values we hold dear, that grant our life meaning, from our point of view. To annihilate meaning as we know it, well, fuck.

Is Mark able to accept this "terrible thing" in the scenes Sloper refers to upthread, or is he desperately trying to accept it, and is his ambiguous failure or success at accepting or acclimating to these purges of overwhelming internal shades of identity, emotions, and needs optimistic or pessimistic? For example, does Mark's inability to acclimate in his current form a comforting relief- similar to how acceptance of our impotence of control can alleviate our delusional stress than we can and have to take on the responsibility to influence everything in our lives- in a "give it up to God/nature"-type surrender? Or is his inability to acclimate as dire as it feels without that reframe? Conversely, if he succeeds is that actually a depressing restoration of complacency in the making, cyclically repeating this dysphoric crisis for eternity? Or is a success as self-gratifying and hopeful as it appears on the surface? One could think about this in reference to today's climate, with our evolving, amplified sexual kinks, umbrella of interests, compartmentalizing and occasionally detached or power-imbalanced communication patterns, morphing of our identifies, etc. to satisfy our partners and spice up our relationships.. is this a dangerous sacrifice of our identity, or a form of growth and open-mindedness to find new avenues to connect, and uncover areas of our 'self' we didn't know were there? The struggle to communicate devolving into physical violence for reprieve in a return to Hobbesian 'state of nature' posits whether this is a solution or a symptom of our species' imminent demise.. and then there's the question of whether we're behaving "naturally" at all.

Does compromise have its limits and are we aware of them? If not, are we slipping into a state of sustained inauthenticity and superficial bandaids for a core issue that we're moving further away from with these additive flavors of potentially-artificial intimacy? Is what we think brings us closer to someone actually drive us farther apart from them and ourselves, and is part of this growing dissociation from the familiar comforts a sign that we need to refurbish our existence, that we need to recontextualize meaning? Does tapping into our animal instincts automatically produce positivity under the right set of circumstances- which perhaps necessitates a foreign environment to access alien qualities- or, because they are alien, are we better off with them controlled under any circumstance, even if this leads to a purgatory state of living miserably? Am I only asking these questions from a conservative space that has no place in the world we're progressing/regressing into, and will I ever be able to access the lens necessary to find serenity in the inevitable?

There are countless other questions to ask, but this film holds up a mirror for us to ask our personalized ones based on a fusion between the apocalyptic externalizations in this film and the insecure limbo we find ourselves in, during this accelerated period of cultural and sociological transformation, where the stabilizers that fasten us with gravity are loosened but whatever threat lays ahead remains hidden. Kind of like a relationship you sense is on its last legs, but where there's no clarity to what, how, or why.

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Re: Possession (Andrzej Żuławski, 1981)

#27 Post by willoneill » Fri Oct 22, 2021 7:02 pm

I went to a screening of the new 4K restoration last night, having not watched the film since I first watched it on blu-ray when it first came out from Second Sight. Then today, while doing some work, I popped that old blu-ray on to listen to the director's commentary, and I have to say, I think the old blu-ray looks better than the restoration. Obviously it's not ideal to compare a large theatre screen to a 60" plasma TV, but to my eyes, the old blu-ray's image is sharper, and the colours in the new restoration look more washed out. Obviously I don't know what the intended look is, but I know which look I like better.

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