Tuesday, 4 December 2018
All eighty minutes of Possum revolve around Sean Harris' Phillip and the contents of his duffel bag. By day he skulks around waste ground and other dilapidated buildings, searching for a place to unload the enormous, titular puppet whose aesthetic is equal parts sixth form art project and living nightmare. The creation has a clay head, wearing a face not unlike Phillip's, that sits atop the body and spindly, draping legs of a house spider. By night Phillip smokes and worries, trying in vain to block out thoughts of an apparently ambulatory Possum and the droning news reports regarding the disappearance of a local teenager.
Phillip is contradictory, his social and mental development are clearly arrested, stuck somewhere around the impassioned servility of secondary school. Despite this he presents himself as close-cropped and buttoned-up, a man who takes a certain amount of pride in his drab, freshly pressed appearance. There are vague allusions to time spent on a barracks, Phillip as someone who has acquired a preference for spick-and-span routine as a way to control or dampen his damage. Upon his return to his childhood home, Phillip finds a mouldering ruin complete with no-go rooms and a lecherous squatter with zero respect for personal boundaries.
Possum's rhythms are slow and cyclical, unfolding like a fracturing Cantastorie performance. We are treated to glimpses of a book made by Phillip following the death of his parents, detailing his meetings with the predatory Possum. Harris whispers the accompanying sing-song story, a bleak tale of a child inadvertently inviting this pricking, prodding figure of torment into his life. These passages are intercut with images of thick, tire smoke issuing from clusters of balloons, a celebration suddenly and permanently interrupted. Phillip, not to mention Matthew Holness' film as a whole, seethes with guilt, its lead unable to process the terrible things that have happened to him. Phillip is stuck, a child's mind trying to make sense of alien affections and intrusions, terrified that he deserves what is happening to him.