|(Image: Smashbox Studios)|
Sometimes you have to go crazy to tell the truth. A scene early in Possession (1981) finds Sam Neill as a betrayed and estranged husband, camped out in rented quarters, red-eyed, unshaven and grimy in sweat-soaked, days-old clothes. He thrashes about on his bed like an inconsolable toddler, calls his wife but can't speak, and careens around his room and down the corridor, running into walls, collapsing on the floor, flailing and moaning like a wounded animal - in other words, embodying the Zulawski hero par excellence.
Somewhere in the course of this tableau, I recalled my own experience of bottom-of-the-barrel romantic despair, the worst days and weeks of a dysfunctional relationship close to a decade ago. And I realized that this was exactly how I felt at the time - that the only reason I didn't indulge myself similarly was my deep-seated commitment to certain norms of civilized behavior, and my network of patiently supportive friends and family. Also, I had to go to work. But if I could have gotten away with it, I would have approximated Neill's performance. With that thought, the distance between myself and the alien being on the screen collapsed into an identification as close as that with a twin brother. The filmmaker's world not only made sense to me - it became, at least briefly, my world. Never did I see more clearly that in his own way he's trying to be quite direct - by clearing away the masks of conventional expression to expose raw emotions and naked psyches.