“THE POSSESSED”— Based on True Crime

“THE POSSESSED” Based on True Crime Amos Lassen “The Possessed” is an atmospheric proto-giallo based on one of Italy s most notorious crimes, the Alleghe killings. Peter Baldwin is Bernard, a depressed novelist who sets off in search of his old flame Tilde (Virna Lisi), a beautiful maid who works at a remote lakeside hotel. Bernard is warmly greeted by the hotel owner Enrico (Salvo Randone) and his daughter Irma (Valentina Cortese), but Tilde has disappeared under suspicious circumstances. Bernard undertakes an investigation and is soon plunged into a disturbing drama of familial secrets, perversion, madness and murder…
Co-written by Giulio Questi and co-directed by Luigi Bazzoni, “The Possessed” combines film noir, mystery and giallo tropes, whilst also drawing on the formal innovations of 1960s art cinema (particularly the films of Michelangelo Antonioni). It is a unique dreamlike take on true crime. The plot is quite simple: a disaffected writer breaks up with his girlfriend and decides on a whim to revisit the resort where last Summer he had a pleasant time with Tilda, a hotel maid.  However, it’s winter now, the hotel is near-empty and Tilda’s dead. Bernard wanders through a gaudy ghost town, and he learns that Tilda’s death was ruled a suicide and in the same coroner’s report it says she died a virgin.    From a fairly standard tale of murder-and-cover-up, Co-director Bazzoni crafts a truly mysterious film, filled with tricky imagery and shifting narrative.
This is a film that uses the murder mystery as an abstraction, only there to provide a semi-sturdy foundation for a house built of half-remembered narrative occurrences, subtle misdirections and dreamlike flourishes of visual imagination. There’s a hefty amount of Antonioni sloshing around in its DNA, with hints of the French New Wave dancing through its airy atmosphere. It feels post-modern even though the visuals lie somewhere in-between Film Noir and British Gothic horror.

As the days go on, Bernard begins investigating Tilde’s death. He begins to feel ill, sporting a high fever. A memory keeps haunting Bernard, a memory of Tilde making love to an unseen man during the night. Was he the one who murdered her? Is it true that Enrico might have paid off the police to keep Tilde’s murder from going public? With little more than rumors, conjecture and a handful of hazy memories, Bernard seeks to stitch together the truth, even though it might lead to his own destruction.
What makes this such a fascinating piece of film is its main narrative convention, that of the unreliable narrator. Bernard is as much of a mystery to us as the murder of Tilde. Though he knows Enrico and his family from his years of spending summers at the hotel, they’re little more than passing acquaintances. Unlike your usual Amateur Detective tale, Tilde’s murder happened in the past and with the town all but empty, there’s no one for Bernard to question but the people he suspects. With nothing more than rumors from a man he barely knows to go on, Bernard begins to read guilt where guilt might not lie.
With only a single memory as a clue, Bernard begins to seek patterns out of nothingness. He descends into conspiracy thinking. As the film descends further down its complicated path, Bernard begins to come to the realization that the truth he is seeking might not be as simplistic as he hoped it would be.
It might just be that the woman whose death he is seeking to avenge, a woman he never really knew but grew to cherish through unrequited love, might not have been much of an angel after all. And it is here that we find the central conceit of the film— the nature of truth, the uncertainty of memory and the desire to solve what might be unsolvable, if for no other reason than to feel the satisfaction of some kind of closure. The film doesn’t end with closure of any substantial type, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise. It isn’t a film concerned with tying everything up. In the end, closure is elusive. SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS   Brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative   High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation   Original Italian and English soundtracks, titles and credits   Uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM audio   Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack   Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack   New audio commentary by writer and critic Tim Lucas   Richard Dyer on The Possessed – a newly filmed video appreciation by the cultural critic and academic   Cat s Eyes, an interview with the film’s makeup artist Giannetto De Rossi   Two Days a Week, an interview with the film’s award-winning assistant art director Dante Ferretti   The Legacy of the Bazzoni Brothers, an interview with actor/director Francesco Barilli, a close friend of Luigi and Camillo Bazzoni   Original trailers   Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sean Phillips   FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Andreas Ehrenreich, Roberto Curti and original reviews

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