reibureibu’s review published on Letterboxd:
Oh god, where to even start?
Okay, so Possessor is a very flawed film that's absolutely packed with ideas which piggyback what figures like Cronenberg Sr. have exhibited while also applying them to the state of the world as it is now. To be completely honest, Brandon Cronenberg isn't always successful at sticking the landing and sometimes his themes can get lost in the spectacle; but the way he tackles an onslaught of modern dilemmas combined with his penchant for technologically-distorted audio-visual presentation (markedly different from his father's focus on the horror that results from the overlap of the biosphere and the technosphere) is hard to resist and even harder to walk away from unscathed.
Here's the premise: we follow a corporate agent who uses brain-implant technology to inhabit other peoples' bodies in order to carry out assassinations that benefit her company. So just at the start this is a world where corporations are so flagrantly powerful that they can literally murder whoever they want in the name of profits, a notion that while executed here in terrifying manner really isn't so different from the world we occupy.
This is then a world of essential lawlessness, where either the government is ineffectual at preventing these crimes or more likely the government is complicit with what is happening, privatized industries bleeding into the state itself as legislation is far too slow-moving to keep up with the rapid pace of society. Basically, we work for companies who then rule over us instead of being responsible to us through government oversight, a power dynamic that shifts the relation from people as self-governing to people as subservient.
Our agent then acts as a weapon for her corp, a hitman that ensures all political opponents are dead before they can disrupt the system. By virtue of being able to 'hack' into other peoples' minds this radically changes notions of privacy and surveillance; digital and analog have crossed over in this very-critical way and suddenly you cannot escape presence of the first by retreating into the second. You can give up social media, your phone, all online communication, heck, you can even become a Mennonite and you still would not be safe from an online intrusion. This is because the brainchip that allows for bodily possession fundamentally eliminates the distinction between these worlds.
So then in a sense we become machines, cyberspace beings supposed by by flesh, components in a larger whole that can be 'debugged' by the overhead system should we have any abberant thoughts that would go against the ruling objective. We then are no longer independent creatures with no option to opt out of this system of governance and the danger of being eliminated at any time is evident in the constant threat of total surveillance.
One other thing of particular importance is the way our agent handles her task. She invades the identity of others and then must mimic them to perform her job, and she's evidently damn good at it considering how long she's been doing it. There is a key thing here though: when she assassinates her targets through the body of others, in order to end her possession she must, as the possessed, die. How blunt, and I must admit I cracked a smile when this was revealed, that in order to return to her original self she must literally kill her new self.
This is because by virtue of occupying, imitating, and reflecting the identities of those she possesses, she may as well truly become them too. If, at some point the copy becomes so convincing that there is no way to distinguish it from the original, would the fact that it's a copy matter at all to those unaware? She cannot avoid the physical and mental ailments of those she possesses because she literally inhabits their body and mind, and by virtue she cannot escape the imprintation of their identity onto her own. Thus, the memories and habits and markers of identity of theirs that bleed over into hers are hers.
So here's the rub: the general idea of post-modernism is that a singular identity doesn't exist. It proposes that we as people are composed of multiple different identities that we can wear, purchase, appropriate, and toss aside whenever we want, through signifiers of those specific identities. Have you ever 'changed your look' hoping to be seen differently? What about buying something associated with a specific sub-culture in order to be viewed as part of it? You can easily switch between these looks, these identities at will, and each is equally 'you' as the other because they are all you; or, more accurately, 'you' are nothing more than the collective of that which you identify with. There is no one, single, true 'you' – only an amorphous entity born from the components you possess.
Is it then any wonder that every self-murder she performs a trauma that strips her of her functioning personhood? Albeit a conglomerate identity, she is still literally killing components of her identity, an act that unquestionably fractures her psyche and renders her less and less of an intact human being.
The act of possession is very clearly applicable to the literal act of identity possession we see in here, but then there is also the other form that is not so direct: that of the corporations possessing us. A corporation is 'just' a collection of people working towards the goal of a larger system, but as a result it becomes its own unique entity that regulates its components; not unlike the way that we are comprised of and regulate our multiple identities. And in the end, the agent's various forms of assassination ends up disrupting not just her own stability but her company's too. You can't kill yourself and expect to come out the same.
For your second film? Not bad Brandon, not bad at all.