Possessor ★★★★½

If you told me beforehand that this was a David Cronenberg film, I would’ve applauded him for taking an invigorating new direction in his career. It was actually made by his son, Brandon Cronenberg, who only had one feature film to his name before this. This was wonderful. It follows in the footsteps of films like “Seconds,” or “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” that use a sci-fi-esque premise merely as a launching pad to make deeper philosophical examinations on identity and being. Here, the main character is a woman named Holly Bergman who works as an assassin by having her consciousness implanted into another body, while her real one is strapped to a machine in a comatose, dream-like state. This makes her the ultimate assassin as she’s basically untraceable, and is shielded from culpability along with the mysterious company she works for. The specifics of how it all works is never given any depth and it doesn’t matter, because the film quickly absorbs you by presenting a deteriorating mind-state seen from Holly’s perspective.

She begins to have difficulties maintaining control over her newest human implant, as a subconscious battle for identity emerges between the two. The way this is presented is done with the gore of a psychological horror film, mixed in with the mindfuck thriller aspects found in a lot of paranoid fiction like Philip K. Dick’s works, or films like “The Matrix,” “Abre Los Ojos,” or “The Thirteenth Floor.” The film I was most reminded of here was Hiroshi Teshigahara’s “The Face of Another.” The biggest issue I had with that film was how cold and emotionally detached it was—as it was content to probe its philosophical issues at a distance, mostly through dialogue. This film is much more visually visceral in its approach. It prioritized the body horror elements inherent in the bizarre process of two individuals trying to grapple for control over the same body.

It was all delicious to watch—yes, in a gross and horrifying way, but I was completely mesmerized by it the entire time. Brandon definitely feels like a chip off the old block, yet he has his own unique thing going on as well. Although the subject matter contains an intrinsically interesting philosophical issue at its core, this film is best approached as an experience: as something to marvel and gawk at; not only for its mind-bending exploration into issues of identity, but also for its portrayal on what that agonizing process of taking over someone's mind and having it taken over in return could possibly feel like.

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