LFF Review: Possessor
Continuing his coverage of the London Film Festival, Henry Jordan considers violence in Brandon Cronenberg’s Possessor
Violence marks our very first encounter in Possessor. We meet a woman working as a waitress at a corporate event. We don’t learn what she does until after we witness her stabbing herself in the head with a cable. Once she makes it upstairs to the function, violence again punctures the film. She stabs a man in the neck repeatedly until coated in his blood. And then Tasya wakes up. Tasya, who had been controlling the mind of this woman in order to assassinate a target.
Violence comes home with Tasya. She has a husband and son, but she can never shake the violence of her work. Why did she stab that man when she was provided with a gun? Soon, she gets her next hit, meaning she must possess the body of Colin Tate, in order to kill his father in law. Colin doesn’t react well and the rest of the film becomes a tussle inside his temporal lobe.
Violence is in Brandon Cronenberg’s blood
Violence permeates Possessor, even in its non-violent imagery. Brandon Cronenberg crafts many scenes that are not explicitly violent but are certainly violent in their explicitness. A hallucination sequence in particular, in which Tasya finds herself sexually involved with Colin’s girlfriend, has stained my mind as much as any of the bloodshed or bacchanalia. What is almost more shocking is that, like many of the greatest horror films, what we see is made memorable by implication over excess. A twist of a tooth, the pop of taut skin or the explosive shot of a gun are often enough to deeply disturb. Possessor is going to send you away thinking you have seen images that were only ever suggested.
Violence is in Brandon Cronenberg’s blood, which is why this must all seem so easy to him. As the observant of you may have guessed, Brandon is indeed the son of David Cronenberg, director of Videodrome, eXistenZ and your worst nightmares. Instead of simply using that name as a nepotistic entry port into the film industry, Cronenberg Jr. is using Possessor as a chance to expand on his father’s themes. Techno-paranoia, the lines of reality, and violence all feel familiar in concept, but they’re presented in ways that will feel playfully different for fans of Cronenberg Sr.
Violence isn’t the only thing Possessor has to offer, but it unavoidably seeps through the layers of the film, from brutal beginning through to fatal finale.