The Possessed is based on one of Italy’s most notorious crimes, The Alleghe killings, and adapted from the book by acclaimed literary figure Giovanni Comisso. It seems like a giallo, but it’s way closer to a film noir. Or maybe an art film. Often, people say that a movie feels like it’s inside a dream, but so much of this movie feels like one long evening of interconnected night terrors.
Also known as The Lady of the Lake, this films was written by Giulio Questi (Death Laid an Egg) and co-directed by Franco Rossellini (who would later produce Caligula) and Luigi Bazzoni (The Fifth Cord, Footprints on the Moon).
Bernard (Peter Baldwin) is a novelist who has given up on life, despite his growing fame. Last summer, he fell in love with a maid named Tilde and hasn’t been able to get her out of his mind. As time goes on, despite the friendly way everyone at the inn treats him, he grows more and more worried about the conspiracy within this small town. That’s because while he was gone, Tilde committed suicide. And she may not have been the perfect woman that his creativity made her out to be.
Much like the giallo protagonist — a stranger on a strange who is often an untrustworthy narrator who must now investigate a crime that they themselves are implicated in — Bernard learns more about how his vacation getaway also isn’t the heaven that he dreamed that it was.
Thanks to the recent Arrow Video releases, I’ve done a deep dive on the films Bazzoni and wish that he had made more than the three giallo-esque films on his resume. Each of them subverts the form while working within it, offering challenging narratives and films that refuse to simply be background noise.
Their new release of The Possessed features a brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative, as well as the original Italian and English soundtracks, titles and credits. Plus, you get the original trailers, audio commentary by writer and critic Tim Lucas, an appreciation of the film by Richard Dyer, an interview with the film’s makeup artist and art director, and actor/director Francesco Barilli discussing the Bazzoni brothers.
I’d never heard of this film before they announced it and am pleased to say that it’s moved up on the list of my favorite films. Consider this my highest recommendation.