About The Production
"I think great art
comes from great passion. It's not about whether you are permitted to explore
life, but rather whether you allow yourself to feel life," comments
producer Paula Weinstein.
Weinstein read A.S.
Byatt's 1990 novel Possession just before it won the Booker Prize and
was immediately taken with its themes and passion: "I loved the book and
was very impressed with it. I optioned the novel and met with Antonia Byatt, who
is a remarkable woman. We both knew it could be difficult to adapt. It took
years to find the right filmmaker and screenwriter — who happened to be the
same in this case: Neil LaBute. His own work, which has not been romantic, is
really about sexual politics, which is at the center of the novel. He was
therefore able to give weight to the characters in translating them to the
"Neil has an
enormous understanding and passion for the material: the struggle between men
and women, be they Victorian or contemporary. Dialogues between the sexes, about
who's in power, who's the boss, what does it mean to be sexual and to love
— that's all Neil LaBute territory."
screenwriter LaBute came aboard the film as an avowed fan of the novel: "It
was a lovely and smart book. I was curious as to who would try to make a movie
version. When I had the chance to start working on it, I began to think about
how to make it into a film. I worked on the script for a year and a half, first
with [screenwriter] Laura Jones and then alone. It was very hard to find the
right balance between the two sets of characters and the two worlds. Possession
is about the discovery of tangible things — letters, the past —but also
of things about oneself and of how the past can reflect itself upon the present.
There are two sets of characters in two different relationships who find things
in themselves that they did not think possible."
LaBute describes his
narrative as "a bit like emotional archaeology. The story's academics
have never known of the relationship that took place between two revered poets.
They discover that not only did Randolph Henry Ash and Christabel LaMotte meet
but in fact fell in love and ran away for a brief period. It's great for the
audience because we can watch the academics come up with ideas about what they
think the people have done and what their work meant, yet only the viewer walks
away with the complete picture."
Weinstein was delighted
that LaBute was able to retain so many of the novel's central themes:
"The Victorian and the contemporary love stories are quite different.
Surprisingly, the Victorian love story is much more liberated, passionate and
daring than the contemporary one, which is filled with all of our post-Freudian
It is in the
investigating of a mystery that the latter-day love story develops —"two
letters found in a book are the catalyst for this story," explains LaBute.
"In doing something as incredibly routine as opening up a book, something
slips out that changes the personal and professional lives of a number of
people. All that is known about the poets is that Ash was in a very stable
marriage and that Christabel was a very new woman, author, lesbian and
proto-feminist. It is thought unlikely that these poets ever met before, but
Roland and Maud run breathlessly along to try and find out what happened. At the
same time, as they're falling deeper and deeper into this world that becomes
more emotional than intellec
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