Friday, July 17, 2015

Possession: The Impossibility of Desire and Self Knowledge

Surreal, psychotic arthouse horror.

Possession is a video nasty that played in competition at Cannes and won its lead actress Isabelle Adjani the award for Best Actress. A reminder that censorship has no relationship to art. At its core it's a story about the difficulties of any relationship, but this simple romantic premise is played out like a high-pitched, manic David Cronenberg horror show (particularly the element of the physical as a reflection of the psychological—it’s like Naked Lunch crossed with Lynch’s Eraserhead). Instead of walking in on your girlfriend with another man, you walk in on her with a slimy tentacle monster. Anxiety over the fragility of the body and the self and about the polymorphous nature of desire played out at an operatic level. Totally insane, totally unforgettable—totally recommended? You'll have to decide that for yourself.

"Love isn't something you can just switch from channel to channel."

Romance. Two bodies sharing the same mind, but it's never really the same mind. There are always little differences that separate them. Possession elevates these moments of discord from sleeping with another man to sleeping with a slimy tentacle monster, thereby shifting what was once a simple conflict to the horror of finally understanding that the two halves were never a whole. When Mark (Sam Neill) sees that there was always something more that Anna (Isabelle Adjani) wanted from him (and that he likewise always wanted something more from her), he confronts the horror of finally understanding that he’ll always be stuck outside of her (and his own) desire.

"I guess when you’re there you want to be home, and when you’re home you want to be there."

Desire. The grass is always greener, but we can never get to the other side of the fence. Not only can we by definition never get what we want (once we have it we can no longer want to have it), we can also never get rid of that nagging feeling that there’s something missing. Mark might have the girl of his dreams (or he might have a violent, psychotic imitation of the woman he once knew), but that won’t stop him from wanting the babysitter. Desire always shifts back outside the self. Anna is more than a woman (more than two women); she’s an archetype, she’s the woman par excellence (the object of desire), and when Mark finally witnesses the truth of her desire (tentacle monster sex) he’ll glimpse something inside her more horrifying than anything she did to him: his own desire for her, a reflection of himself.

"I can't exist by myself because I'm afraid of myself, because I'm the maker of my own evil."

Self. Know thyself, but we never really can. There’s always some irreducible part of ourselves that we’d rather not know, that we cannot physically or psychologically integrate into our socio-symbolic reality. We’re all Anna on her way back from getting groceries: we never know when our innards (organs or identity) might start dripping out of our ears. We’re fragile balls of goo held up by our anxieties. We try to do good deeds while not giving ground away from our own desire, but because we can never truly know ourselves, because we can never truly get what we want, because we can never truly be together, this goodness becomes evil.

"Goodness is only some kind of reflection upon evil. That's all it is."

Junesploitation: Day 12 – Video Nasties!
What Even Happened?

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