a Freudian nightmare, the son will be inevitably pitted against the father. David
Cronenberg beautifully mutilated reality and politics in films like Videodrome,
Shivers and The Fly back in the 70s and 80s – becoming the champion
of ‘body-horror’ cinema. Brandon follows his example, indulging in a similar volume
of violence that causes over-reactive viewers to flee the cinema.
But unlike David,
who doesn’t usually like to feel things unless they’re bursting out of flesh,
Brandon reins in the politics in favour of the characters affected by them.
Andrea Riseborough plays the body-shifting assassin Tasya Vos. Photo: image.net
Vos is the killer-for-hire, transferring into different bodies to perform untraceable
assassinations. This is achieved through a machine that wraps around the face, managed
by Tasya’s boss Girder (Jennifer Jason Leigh).
opening scene is a violent stabbing in a hotel bar. Whereas most directors cut
away from blade penetrating skin, leaving it to the melons in the sound
department, Brandon shows the murder in full. He doesn’t shy away from the
gruesome details, lending the film a certain liberatory terror. He breaks from Hollywood
norms and clasps the dread of something worse to come.
of the machine, Andrea Riseborough plays Tasya. Her skin’s extremely pale, as if she’s just emerged from a freezer. She attempts to return to her home life,
separated from her husband but connected via their son. Like the ‘narratives’
she maintains for the host-bodies she invades, Tasya also rehearses her own
personality – alienated as she is from her family.
next job is a big one. Colin Tate (Christopher Abbott) is the future son-in-law of media mogul John Parse (briefly and despicably played by Sean Bean). The
objective: kill John as Colin. Brandon shows the transference process: the host-body
gestating like a clever animation in a contemporary art exhibit. Skin-coloured
liquid bubbles to form the person Tasya is to imitate, to be.
Abbott has his
work cut out for him: playing a female assassin trapped in a male body. He
captures that confusing friction, especially when feeling him/herself in the mirror.
Sexual curiosity plays a significant part in this.
Christopher Abbott plays Colin Tate, the body-host for Tasya Vos. Photo: image.net
never elaborates too much on the world of Possessor, but the sterile atmosphere
pervades. It’s clearly some near-future dystopia, its cold and capitalistic
emptiness eking through the screen. Colin has a menial job in the data-mining
conglomerate where John Parse is the CEO. Surveillance capitalism comes into full
swing as he/Tasya wires into VR and looks through personal cameras across the world, logging
furniture and curtains in the homes of consumers.
Brandon’s less concerned with the world and more
fascinated with the psychology that world creates, like a knife across the nerve
of reality. Tasya/Colin endures abstract episodes, periods of skewered delusion
with bright red colours and deflated masks of Tasya’s face. This is when
Brandon comes into his own, penetrating his characters’ minds and loving what
critic would’ve loved to see more of Colin’s home life, and Tasya’s adjustment
to it, but that risks interrupting the excellent pace of the blood-soaked plot.
More than this, Possessor possesses you with such nightmarish and psychological
force that it’s hard to re-enter your own life again. Brandon’s proved ample
competition against Father Cronenberg.
Reviewed at the London Film Festival 2020. Possessor will be available on digital platforms from Friday 27 November
|What||Possessor film review|
27 Nov 20 – 27 Nov 21, ON DIGITAL
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