Possession: The Beast in a Berlin movie.

leading from
The Delville in detail

Still collating



a) Planning the monster 

When the eminent Polish film critic Bogozlav Mikhaelish read the script for Possession, he urged Zulawski not to show the monster, but this was advice that the director did not heed

Working out the creature for the film wasn't easy. Andrzej had an idea about what he wanted but not exactly, he had an idea but didn't know how to put it on paper and so he showed Marie-Laure Reyre some pictures that had cut out of magazines, that gave her some idea of how such a creature should look, such as various pictures of golems such as golem statues from Prague

They started meeting all the special effects people in France, in England, and in Germany where they were going to shoot the film and then Andrzej went to New York and saw the movie Alien there. Immediatley Andrzej said "That's the guy that we need for our monster" Then they tried to get in touch with Giger, but his response was that he was too busy working on two other films. he told them "The person to do this is Carlo Rambaldi." and they said fine. They thought that Carlo might be in Italy but he turned out to be in Los Angeles, but while they were in New York, while Rambaldi was living in LA.



Andrzej Zulawski directing Isabelle Adjani who starred in the movie


Since, Marie-Laure had battled well for the film and even took it to the Berlin Senate, he felt that he owed her something, She had backed the project, okayed Sam Neil from Australia and Isabelle Adjani despite her reputation, he listened to her suggestion for Carlo Rambaldi who had worked with Steven Spielberg.

Andrzej thought "Could we afford his huge fees?"

Marie-Laure told Andrzej "No, he's Italian, I've got contacts in Cinecitta"

She had lived in Italy and knew the Italians, so Andrzej went ahead with her decision.

They went to LA and helped by Giger, met Carlo who at the time was working for Oliver Stone on the film The Hand. They entered his studio and were surrounded by his strange infernal machinery and creatures of rubber that without special lighting that might lead one to think "What's that piece of rubber meant to be?."

Rambaldi thought about it for two or three days before replying, he had read the script, he liked the story and had talked a lot with Andrzej and seemed to trust Marie-Laure , and after four days accepted. He appeared to understand what Zulawski required when he knew how he wanted to use it in film especially at the finish, and Rambaldi was the first real special effects person that they met and would be someone who could complete this in reality.

They went back to Europe but they had to keep checking on the development of the creatures of which there were several. A lot of designs and drawings and miniatures were being sent around for that reason. It was not easy to start building the special effects in LA while they were in German. But Andrzej was impressed with Rambaldi's drawing. He didn't want the creature to be identified. First it would flow in the metro as a whitish pink puddle and later as it were, coagulate into a Sam Neil. Rambaldi's drawings were done with a strong hand but they were brilliantly unclear

b) Airport  Incident

The writer Frederic Tuten realised only after doing this film that there was disparity between what was written on the page and what was seen on the screen. He himself didn't actually know if there was going to be a physical presence of a monster, but always assumed that it was something that the viewer would see when there's a shot where the first detective says "what is that?" and they would see a bathroom, a curtain and a sort of an eye and that would be about it, the viewer would see the eye and imagine the rest of it, but it seemed that he didn't know what Andrzej had in mind, especially the where he was always had in mind the physical presence of a monster. In fact he didn't know until he was in Berlin when he had to do a rewrite on the set while the film was being shot

Marie-Laure said one day to Frederic Tuten " you want to come with me to the airport"
He asked "what are you doing?"
She replied "We're going to get the monster today"
He responsed " what monster"
Marie-Laure was obviously surprised that Tuten didn't seem to know
"Don't you know Rambaldi made the monster?"
Indeed Tuten didn't know anything about this.

Writer Frederic Tuten who had absolutely no idea
that they were going to show the monster in Possession

When they came to Berlin to prepare the scenes, the finished beast was to arrive for the shooting. Marie-Laure had to go with producer Jean-José Richer and pick up Carlo at Tegel Airport in Berlin, and he arrived with five or six wooden coffins which had all been as big as the monster of the film. The customs officers were all very curious and wanted to know what was what. Fortunately they had a letter from their so-called Co-Producer, the Senate of Berlin, which stated that everything they needed should be done.

Carlo was there with his five coffins and still two customs officers wanted to have a look inside. They were opened and it was packed with rubber tentacles. Marie-Laure was even startled herself, even though she had seen the drawings and witnessed the process of its development. She had been to LA several times, and the last time only two weeks before. But to see these things made from plastic and other strange materials revealed in a crates that were near enough coffins at customs causing the custom officers to look startled before quickly closing the creates up again, became a strange surrealistic experience. She thought that the custom officers, although they were smiling must have thought she and the others were crazy.

The creature as a phallic monster being tended to by Andrzej Zulawski on the set of Possession


c) Unpacking

Carlo asked "OK, when's the shoot"

Zulawski replied "Tomorrow"

Carlo was somewhat surprised "What!"

"Yes, tomorrow" affirmed Zulawski

Carlo asked "What about preparations?"


"You've got all night" Zulawski told him

"Night?"  replied Carlo confused

It almost looked as if Carlo was too used to the luxury of multimillion dollar budget and his background in European film making had been forgotten

Zulawski reminded Carlo, "Hey, this is Europe, forget Hollywood!"

Asked Carlo "How long to shoot the monster?"

Zulawski explained "For all the scenes with the "character", we have 2 days, for all angles"

Considering his experience in the film industry, Carlo seemed still confused "Two days?"

Zulawski added "We have 30 or 40 shooting days altogether and two days for the "monster" !"

This was obviously not quite the situation that Carlo thought he was walking in to, in light of the work he did in his other movies where a lot of work went into his creations to get it right for the brief shots in the movie. They might have been dealing with something that was near enough a simple but effective monster, but even his smiling alien puppet in Close Encounters Of The Third Kind took a lot of work.

Carlo Rambaldi's extra-terrestrial from Close Encounters of The Third Kind

"You know how long I had to do the closeup in Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind?"

"The little Martian walking out of the UFO?" asked Zulawski

"A close up of his mouth and eyes I had six weeks" revealed Carlo

Zulawski seemed a little bit surprised "Six weeks for that closeup?"

"Yes, the time to find the right lights and animation" explained Carlo

Andrzej responded "So, what now?"

"I'll show you what I've got" said Carlo

Rambaldi opened his car book and Andrzej had the biggest shock every. In the crates, he saw something that looked like a huge pink condom about 2.5 metres long and this would be the thing seen briefly in the movie with electronic eyes blinking and a mouth that breathed, but the thing looked like a huge male member. This was a problem that Andrzej hadn't expected "It doesn't look like your drawings"

Rambaldi responded "The producer told me it was a sort of sexual symbol"

Zulawski obviously wondered what he was going to do with this monster like this
"That's not a symbol, it's a penis You made the thing. It's just as if I filmed you without your knickers"

Rambaldi felt apologetic "that was a mistake"

However there was obviously no turning back and it was best to make use of what they had..

Andrzej responded "Obviously! I can make one shot of it. Not showing the size or the details. But you must make up the rest."

Then the spirit of Cinecitta returned to Rambaldi who suddenly felt twenty years younger "You'll have it tomorrow, trust me."

d) Last minute monster
All through the night, he and three men from the art department made the monster which would wriggle on the bed like and octopus. They made it with film stock pieces of wood, and invisibl black strings moved around by the whole crew in the small stuffy room in Berlin close to the wall, it was an incredible sight. The fat Germans were swearing "Shit! Shit" while making the octopus move and Andrzej's assistant was lying on a mattress under the octopus to move it. It was a rush job, but it was also a Polish sci-fi movie made with bits and pieces which made Andrzej feel at home with the project.
 
Five or six days later they started shooting the scenes and it was a lot of work since they were making the film on a small budget. Back then it took a lot of time to shoot a film with special effects and everything had to be prepared, with the lighting and other machines had to be set up correctly. Andrzej was very patient and Carlo went along with it, but they had to adjust the schedul to their budget and keep to it


Rambaldi was very proud of his creation, putting it in his press books and would continue to show it around.

The resulting monster caused some headache and for a while there seemed to be no solution, and the   film became easily mistaken for a horror movie with the American buyer cutting half of it releasing it with another an actual horror movie, which was brutal and harmful for the movie.


Isabelle Adjani's character making love to the beast in Possession

e) The half man half monster thingie
There was a scene where it looked as if Sam Neil was playing a half man half monster entity in the love making scene. Rambaldi did not create the human part of this monster.It was someone who looked enough like him, or at least his hair did. The viewer could think that it was Dam Neil although it was only a stand in for him

f) Hopes for another movie with a monster
Towards the end of his life, Andrzej had thought about making another monster movie, and his producer turned to Guillermo Del Toro for a design, but it never came to be.

g) See also: Rambaldi's beast for Possession and HR Giger's Mordor VII


Source quotes. 
  1. Marie-Laure Reyre: At the beginning, we weren't sure that the monster should be seen. It was a big decision to show or not to show... or maybe just show as little as in Rosemary's Baby, when you never fully saw what was happening, but you certainly felt it (Starburst, Possession, feature by Tony Crawley)
  2. Marie-Laure Reyre: We started meeting all the special effects people here in France, in England, and in Germany, where we were going to shoot the film. And then Alien opened. We saw that and decided to meet Giger. We sent him the script and Giger said, "The person to do this is Carlo Rambaldi." We said fine. We thought he was close by in Italy. Not at all! He was in Los Angeles.(Starburst, Possession, feature by Tony Crawley)
  3. The duo flew over to California (that's how budgets start to increase) to meet the man with his two Oscars for King Kong and Alien, with all his other dollar lined Hollywood deals. They were a trifle scared that he'd say No, not to mention, that he's probably prove over expensive.(Starburst, Possession, feature by Tony Crawley)
  4. Marie-Laure Reyre:That too, of course. And at first, he did ask for a lot of money. So we explained, this was a European film, not a big American budget. We did not have the kind of money he should receive. So we spoke quite a long time and then he said "Okay, I'll do it"(Starburst, Possession, feature by Tony Crawley) 
  5. sStarburst: What convinced him to take the film on - Europeanism?

    Marie-Laure Reyre: He liked the story. He liked Andrzej. He liked Andrzej's film a lot. And I think he also trusted me. But it was not easy at all to start building this special effect in Los Angeles... when we were shooting in Germany. He designed everything in California and when he'd made it, he came to Berlin with the whole thing in a ... in a... 

    Starburst: Suitcase?

    Marie-Laure Reyre: No, it was more a coffin. Five of them. This was something funny, the scene at the airport

    Starburst: Could be a scene in a movie. How did Rambaldi go about designing the ... er... the.. what do you call it?

    Marie-Laure Reyre: The creature. The entity

    Starburst:The design was hardly left to him. Surely Zulawski had some visual notion of what he wanted. He is a most visual director after all

    Marie-Laure Reyre: Zulawski never knew exactly what he wanted. Or not until we found Rambaldi. He was the first person who understood what Zulawski required. Zulawski had the idea but didn't know how to put it on paper. He knew too, of course, how he wanted to use it in film, especially at the finish, but Carlo was the first special effects person we met who could complete this... idea... in reality. That's why we used Carlo Rambaldi.

    Starburst: He had find coffins, because of various versions of the entity - or sizes - developments, is that it?

    Marie-Laure Reyre: In fact it's four, because the last one... is Sam Neil. And despite rumours to the contrary, Rambaldi didn't make Sam.  Does that mean that Sam Neil is playing the half man, half monster thingie in the love making scene. On reflection, it does look like him - his hair at least. You can think that was Sam Neil. It was not Sam Neil in reality. It was a stand-in for Sam Neil

    Starburst: And this joker was connected up to all these tentacles and stuff

    Marie-Laure Reyre:Yes. And it was something quite heavy, he was in a very uncomfortable situation.
     
  6. Making of Possession documentary (00:26:28)
    The Creature

    Voiceover: If Zulawski adopted the mask of the science fiction for the Silver Globe, in Possesion, he would use the mask of the horror film.

    Zulawski: This form with its traditions which go very profoundly in our psyche, brother Grimm used it and old horror stories that we read, we read and listen to and every possible civilisation from every possible time, I think that the f... maybe the first tale told was a horror story because people were afraid of the dark

    Voiceover: When the eminent Polish film critic Bogozlav Mikhaelish read the script Possesion, he urged Zulawksi not to show the monster, advice the director did not heed

    Frederic Tuten: I realised only after doing this film  that there's a disparity between what you write on the page and what you see on the screen. And so I didn't know there was going to the physical presence of a monster. I always assumed it was something that you'd see when there's a shot when he says "what is that?" the detective, the first detective, he goes up to see and says what is that? Something is a kind of a bathroom, it's a sort of curtain, and I think you see kind of eye, an eye, but I thought that, that's it, you would see the eye and you would have to imagine the rest of it, but I didn't know that Andrzej really had in mind, I don't know if he always had in mind the physical presence of a monster. I didn't know that. I, I wasn't aware of it until I was in Berlin, when we had to do a rewrite as on set in fact while the film was being shot, I had to do a rewrite and Marie Laurez said to me "you want to come with me to the airport" I said what are you doing.
    We're going to get the monster today
    I said what monster
    Don't you know Grimaldi made the monster
    I never knew this

    Marie-Laure Reyre: The creature wasn't easy. Andrzej knew, what he wanted. He showed me pictures that he had cut out of magazines.. etc, and that gave some idea of how such a creature could look like. Among those were various pictures of golems, of golem statues from Prague etc. It was like a whole documentation. The some day we went to New York and saw Alien there. The first Alien. He immediately said :"That's the guy that we need for our monster". So of course we got in touch with Giger right on the spot. He lived in Zurich. But Giger told us that he didn't have the time for our project because he was already working on two other films. But since we were already in New York, we should try and get in touch with Carlo Rambaldi directly. Rambaldi was an Italian, who Dino de Laurentiis took with him when he left Italy a few years earlier to settle down in Hollywood. Dino had Rambaldi working on White Buffalo and King Kong in 1977. So we went to LA where we, thanks to Giger, we had organized all of that, met with Carlo Rambaldi. It was amazine, when we entered Carlo's studio. It was quite strange, with all these infernal machines standing around, and the other stuff, which in fact was all quite simple. Without all the special lighting, one could rather think: "what's that piece of rubber meant to be?" At that time he was working for Oliver Stone, who was preparing the shoot for his film The Hand, which was taking place in New York. I don't know, if you have seen it, but it had not been very successful. Rambaldi thought about it for two or three days, before giving us a reply. He had read the script and had talked a lot with Andrzej. Then, after four days, he accepted. That was the beginning of something very surrealistic. Then we went back to Euope but we constantly had to, Either me or Andrzej had to check on the development of the beast or rather the beasts, since there were several. A lot of designs, drawings and miniatures were sent around for that reason. When we came to Berlin, to prepare the scenes, the finished beast was to arrive for the shooting. I think I'll remember that day for my whole life when we went to pick up Carlo Rambaldi at Tegel airport in Berlin. He arrived with five or six wooden coffins which have all been as big as the monster. I was there with Executive Producer, Jean-José Richer. The customs officers were very curious and wanted to know, what that was. Fortunately we had a letter with use from our so-called 'Co-Producer', the Senate of Berlin, which stated that everything we needed should be done. So Carlo had arrived with his five coffins. Nevertheless two customs officers wanted to have a look inside. The coffins were opened and all you could see were these sort of tentacles, these pieces of rubber. I have to admit, that I was startled, even though I had seen the drawings and witnessed the process of its development. I had also been to L.A. several times, the last time just two weeks before. But these things out of plastic and other strange materials, to see them in crates, it was absolutely surrealistic. The customs officers also looked startled and quickly closed the crates again. They probably thought that we were crazy. Although they smiled, they were nevertheless taken back a bit. Five or six days later we started shooting the scenes then. It was a lot of work, since we made the film on a small budget. Back then it took a lot of time to shoot a film with special effects. Everything had to be prepared: The lighting and the infernal machines had to be set up correctly. I have to say that Carlo was great and Andrzej was very patient. So we had to adjust the schedule to our budget. Andrzej strictly kept to the schedule, and Carlo Rambaldi also.

    Frederick Tuten: She loved something she created. she loves something that loves her in the strangest abhorrent way but loves her in the way she wants to be loved, and I think that is a metaphor that's so interesting, that our loneliness can create something that nurtures our love, that's what, that's what we, I I had hope for anyway, I hoped to see that, I hope he wanted that, that, that somehow in our most despairing, abject, pained lonelines, somewhere somehow, there's a creation of something that comforts us, and I, I think that was part of, part of what I understood about making that film

    Zulawski: The monster in the film proved you shouldn't try to please anyone while shooting. Be unpleasant and firm. I gave up because the French producer had battled for the film and even went to Berlin' Senate. I felt I owed her something. She'd backed the project, okayed Sam Neil from Austalia and Isabelle despite her reputation. I really owed her. She said there was this Italian guy, Carlo Rambaldi who worked with Spielberg and others. Could we afford his huge fees? 
    "No, he's Italian, I've got contacts in Cinecitta.
    She's lived in Italy, knew the Italians, so why not?. We saw Carlo Rambaldi whose drawings were impressive and quite.... How can I put it? I didn't want this thing to be identified. First it flows in the metro and becomes Sam Neil. But in between this sort of whitish pinkish puddle and Sam Neil, everything, every stage is possible, the creation, the coagulation of the final character. His drawings had the great advantage of being... not blurred, because the hand was strong but they were brilliantly unclear.

    The Carlo came to Berlin, a charming, wonderfully Italian man with just terrible English. 
    He said , "OK, when's the shoot?
    I said "Tomorrow." 
    "What"
    "Yes, tomorrow"
    "What about preparations?"
    "You've got all night"
    "Night?"
    "Hey, this is Europe, forget Hollywood!"
    "How long to shoot the monster?"
    "For all the scenes with the "character", we have 2 days, for all the angles"
    "Two days?"
    "We had 30 or 40 shooting days altogether and 2 days for the "monster""
    "You know how long I had to do the close up in Encounters of the 3rd Kind?"
    "The little Martian walking out of the UFO?"
    "A close up of his mouth and eyes. I had six weeks"
    "6 weeks for that close up?"
    "Yes, the time to find the right lights and animation"
    I said :"So, what now?"
    "I'll show you what I've got"
    He opened the boot and I had the greatest shock ever. In these crates, there was a huge pink condom, about 2.5 metres long. At the end there were... it appears briefly in the film, electronic eyes blinking and a mouth that breathed. It was like a huge penis.
    "It doesn't look like your drawings."
    "The producer told me "it was a sort of sexual symbol."
    "That''s not a symbol, it's a penis!"
    You made the thing. It's just as if I filmed you without your knickers.
    He felt sorry, as a sculptor and an intelligent man.
    He said: "That was a mistake."
     "Obviously! I can make one shot of it. Not showing the size or the details. But you must make up the rest."
     His Cinecitta do it yourself Italian side came out. He suddenly felt 20 years younger.
     "You'll have it tomorrow, trust me."
     All night, he and 3 guys from the Art Department made the monster which wiggles on the bed like an octopus. They made it with film stock pieces of wood and invisible black strings moved around by the whole crew in that small stuffy room in Berlin close to the Wall. It was an incredible sight. Those fat Germans swearing "Shit, shit!" while making the octopus move. My assistant was lying on a mattress under the octopus to move it. It was a rush job. I'd just shot a Polish sci-fi movie also, made with bits and pieces, so I felt at home.
    Carlo was very proud of his creation. He put it in his press books and still shows it around.
    I started talking about Rambaldi and the monster saying I'd never again do a favour to anyone. This favour to the charming producer who did a lot for the film turned against the film. It gave us an enormous headache and for a while, we thought there was no solution. And the film was easily mistaken by idiots for a horror movie. 
    The first release in the USA, the buyer was a ruthless idiot who released it with a horror movie and he cut half of it. It was a horrible and vulgar con job. It was brutal and harmful for the movie. Never again. Don't ask me for a favour! (Interview with Andrzej Zulawksi from the Possession DVD (00:20:25 - 00:26:56) (Admittedly this transcription needs to be double checked)
  7. Guillermo Del Toro: Zulawski's producer had approached me to design a monster for the master in his next movie. I wanted to work w him so much...(Twitter, February 17th, 2016)

No comments:

Post a comment