Brandon Cronenberg, the son of the famous director David Cronenberg who is known for his movies such as Crash (1996), The Fly (1986), Videodrome (1983) and many more, made a futuristic sci-fi movie in 2020 filled with chilling horror and it’s called “Possessor”. With this theme, we can clearly state that his style resembles his father’s. The main idea behind the movie is very intriguing and daring. In this story – we don’t know which era it belongs to or is this a parallel, dystopian world that looks like our planet earth – , “thanks” to the great technology, an organization and its members can get into other people’s bodies, just like parasites. But the difference is that the person who gets into the other person’s body is able to control it, hence the name “possessor”. This technology is used to commit murders and the killers can remain unknown because they use the other person’s body to commit this crime.
The organization gets paid by very rich, upper-class people to assassinate others and they work via “ordering”. Our main character is Tanya Vos, played by Andrea Riseborough whom we know from a Black Mirror episode called Crocodile. These two roles of her are very similar; she plays a predatory woman who can kill without a second thought, a problematic character who bottles up her feelings inside, just to destroy her later on. Her mentor is Girder (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who appears to be an older professional. Girder plans to set Vos as her “heir” in this business because Vos is one of the best in this profession. I also suspect that there is more than a professional relationship between these two, however, this theory of mine remains unproven. At the beginning of the movie, we see that Vos successfully completes her mission, yet there is a little problem. For this mission to be completed, Tanya must kill the host, usually by gunshot. However, Tanya wasn’t able to do this to the host – because a deep instinct in us humans always forces us to stay alive – which means she merged her own identity with the host body’s and that rings the bell of danger. Since she cannot kill herself, i.e., the host body, she gets herself killed via provoking the police and she returns to her normal Tanya Vos body.
Alienation and Chaos
Although Girder is aware of this fact, Vos states that there isn’t any problem with her operation, and she gets back to her family. From this meeting, we understand that she is unable to keep her familial obligations done because of the nature of her profession. In her previous mission – it was the assassination of a lawyer – as aforementioned, she forms a connection with the host body and she felt the murder in her own bones. Although she was supposed to kill the lawyer with her gun, she declined it and killed him by stabbing -many times- instead. Now, she is unable to leave what she has experienced behind. She still carries the memory of her last mission and sees visions of the stabbing. What really happened is that she was deeply involved with her mission and she realized her deepest desires of killing and she wanted to do this very slowly (compared to killing with a gun).
Her most raw and inhumane desires affect her and now she is unable to see her own world clearly. Another mission comes and this one is very lucrative. Tanya must kill a businessman (Sean Bean) and his heirs because the person who ordered this mission is supposed to be the only inheritor of this businessman’s assets. Vos is supposed to get into Colin Tate’s (Christopher Abbott) body. This man is John Parse’s (Sean Bean) daughter’s boyfriend, and he is a junkie. He is very disliked by John Parse and is always humiliated by him. Vos’ mission is to kill John Parse and his daughter Ava (Tuppence Middleton) -Colin’s girlfriend- and then the mission should be over. However, nothing goes like it was planned because Vos never mentions to the authorities that she is having “synchronization” problems. This poses a great threat, but we never know why she hides it.
Haunted by the Deepest Instincts
As we said, after getting into Colin’s body, she starts to have synchronization problems and she feels that she becomes “one” with Colin. This “oneness” is not appreciated by Colin and he fights back. Colin, actually Vos, makes love with Ava, but after a certain point, Vos feels the converging and diverging forces between her and Colin. Colin’s body is divided into two: the first one is himself and the other one is Vos. During the sex scene, when we look at Colin, we see both Vos’ and Colin’s bodies. Later, Vos’ female body becomes a body with a penis. Although she is terrified because of these synchronization problems, she does nothing about those. We don’t know her motives and she always acts like a closed box. She remains a mystery for us and probably for herself. Then, the mission day comes, and she/Colin kills Ava and tries to kill John Parse as well.
The main mission was to destroy John Parse but once again she disobeys the rule of killing with a gun. She cannot fight with her most bestial desires and she prefers to kill by an item that she founds there. She almost beats him to death, very brutally and she enjoys it. It’s not like an enjoyment that one gets from good food or sexual intercourse, it’s more like one feeds her/his most ingrained desires that he/she is both terrified and consumed by it but also cannot help doing it. Interestingly, John Parse survives as a result. We can clearly say that Sean Bean is the one who survives because he is known for his “dying” in movies or series; we can give the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Game of Thrones series as the most outstanding examples. After being dead in many productions, he started to be known as “the person who dies” in every new production that he will take place in. That’s why this movie makes an exception here and does not kill Sean Bean. However, I think that his situation in this movie is much worse than being killed directly.
After those attempts, Vos thinks that she completed the mission and she wants to get out of this body. However, she cannot command Colin anymore and thus she cannot get out of his body. The possessor becomes the possessed and Colin starts to dominate. He feels the desire to take revenge and he finds Vos’ family. Before that, we see how these two bodies merge into one and how they differentiate. The way of displaying the desynchronization between these two was very successful in my opinion. The scenes which include Colin were replicated this time but with Vos in them. She has a mask, a distortion to her identity, and also a distortion to her soul. Her own identity disappears, gets spoiled, and becomes even disgusting. Then it literally melts until we get to the very core of her identity.
Colin visits Vos’ family but he still carries Vos in him. He threatens her husband to kill him but very interestingly Vos doesn’t stop him. It’s almost like she wants to get rid of everything that bounds her to a normal life. The husband gets killed, then Vos’ child kills Colin but at the same time, he gets shot as well. With this, Vos was able to get out of Colin’s body and later we learn that Girder got into the child’s body to get Vos out of there.
A very volatile yet interesting story we see here. Some of the movie’s scenes were full red or full blue, which adds to the vivid and dream-like features of the movie. I can personally say that I liked the movie a lot but at the same time got terrified by it. I think that this matches with the main motives of the director: to unearth very strong emotions via striking cinematography and with an interesting yet brutal story. There is a fine line between showing unnecessary and nauseous violence and being able to deliver your message via showing it. I think Brandon Cronenberg was able to do the latter very successfully. Because the message in this movie is not the violence itself. It is something else. The violence in Possessor wasn’t here just for the sake of violence and I think that’s the thing that matters the most. Although some people will agree on this, many people won’t like this movie. It’s clear that the movie is not for everyone. But if you like dystopian productions, I think you will find some great value here.