When married couple Mark (Neill) and Anna (Adjani) are introduced on-screen, one can immediately feel that something is amiss. Anna abruptly demands a divorce, leaving Mark alone in their apartment with their son Bob (Michael Hogben), who does not quite understand the secondhand trauma inflicted on him by his parents. Anna’s discontinuous presence, along with the implication that she has found a new lover, drives Mark insane: he rocks in his armchair with manic intensity and desperately calls Anna’s friends for any leads about her perceived affair, while shivering frantically at night like an addict experiencing withdrawal.
In the rare moments Anna chooses to return, she remains painfully obtuse, directing warmth only toward her son, while shunning Mark’s attempts at reconciliation. As Mark’s obsession escalates, so does Anna’s erratic behavior — the love-hate dynamic between them is dangerous, palpable, often ending in physical violence and uncomfortably honest confessions. Żuławski portrays this maddening spiral with dramatic camera zoom-ins, unconventional angles, and a recorded ballet room video in which Anna bares her soul. “I can’t exist by myself because I’m afraid of myself, because I’m the maker of my own evil,” she says.
This utterance is the core of “Possession,” as it is the key to unlocking Anna’s psyche, wherein a major tussle between Sister Faith and Sister Chance is taking place. Possessed by the need to covet what she does not have, Anna needs to hurt Mark repeatedly, even when a part of her loves him deeply. This friction creates insurmountable guilt mired in repressed desires, which culminates in the subway scene, where Anna literally births her own evil. This Frankensteinian monster is otherworldly in its very existence — depraved and taboo — parasitically evolving into Anna’s ideal vision of Mark by the end of the film.