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The Possessed (1965)

La donna del lago (original title)
A visitor arrives in a small Italian village looking for a woman. Residents tell him that she committed suicide but there's more to the mystery than they're letting on. Meanwhile, a strange woman walks by the lake.


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Cast overview:
Peter Baldwin ...
Bernard, the writer
Salvo Randone ...
Pier Giovanni Anchisi ...
Photographer (as Piero Anchisi)
Ennio Balbo ...
Anna Maria Gherardi ...
Servant girl (as Anna Gherardi)
Bruno Scipioni
Mario Laurentini


A visitor arrives in a small Italian village looking for a woman. Residents tell him that she committed suicide but there's more to the mystery than they're letting on. Meanwhile, a strange woman walks by the lake.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis





Release Date:

10 August 1965 (Italy)  »

Also Known As:

Love, Hate and Dishonor  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

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User Reviews

THE POSSESSED (Luigi Bazzoni and Franco Rossellini, 1965) ***
9 August 2008 | by (Naxxar, Malta) – See all my reviews

Recently, I had been impressed with Bazzoni's weird offering FOOTPRINTS (1975); so, when I happened upon this even more obscure (and, by all accounts, rarer) earlier title from him, I decided to check it out – and, boy, is it a find for Euro-Cult/Art-house buffs! The film, in fact, can perhaps best be described as an arty semi-giallo; interestingly, it contains several echoes to Bazzoni's later effort: the resort town, the central hotel setting, the strange characters encountered by the hero (in FOOTPRINTS, the bewildered protagonist was a woman), the mystery revolving around a missing person – not to mention the deliberate (and deliberately-paced) oblique narrative.

What is immediately arresting here (in spite of the somewhat fuzzy quality of the print on display) is the supreme style allotted to the film's look – which is wintry, bleak and forbidding – by its two directors (incidentally, this was Rossellini's only stint in such capacity!); to this end, they wisely recruited veterans such as cinematographer Leonida Barboni (but who also adopts peculiar framing throughout, none more so that the pan in extreme close-up of a character's face with the gleaming lake for backdrop!) and production designer Luigi Scaccianoce. However, equally important to the fabric of the piece are the contributions of Renzo Rossellini (supplying an appropriately moody score) and editor Nino Baragli (whose frequent jump-cuts and seamless juxtaposition between reality, recollection and outright fantasy create a genuine and admirably disorientating effect on the viewer). Incidentally, THE POSSESSED – a misleading English title but a literal translation of the original, THE LADY OF THE LAKE, would be no less ambiguous! – was co-written (with Bazzoni and Franco Rossellini) by Giulio Questi; for the record, as a director in his own right, the latter went on to make such idiosyncratic yet haunting revisions of genre convention as the Spaghetti Western DJANGO, KILL…IF YOU LIVE, SHOOT! (1967) and the giallo DEATH LAID AN EGG (1968).

The cast is compact but exceptionally noteworthy: Peter Baldwin (very good in Dino Risi's LOVE IN ROME [1960] – here, in what I assume to be his most significant role, he's downright excellent!), Salvo Randone (as the owner of the hotel whom the hero suspects of both lechery and murder, he manages to alternate between a genial and sinister countenance throughout), Valentina Cortese (a typically fine performance, though her weather-beaten looks make it hard to convince us she's Randone's daughter…even if a reasonable age gap separates the two actors!), Philippe Leroy (having appeared in so many films from the 1960s and 1970s that I've watched in recent years and, thanks also to his remarkable versatility, the French actor has become a firm favorite of mine!), Virna Lisi (while undeniably sensual, her contribution basically amounts to an extended cameo – since her character, who seems to have turned the heads of virtually the entire male cast at some point, is already dead when the film opens and we only see the girl in flashback/fantasy sequences!) and Pia Lindstrom (a rare cinematic appearance by Ingrid Bergman's elder daughter – being similarly steeped in mystery, alas, she too is barely given time to create a flesh-and-blood character…but, then, her resultant fragile performance emerges to be all the more moving for it!).

The plot concerns an author (Baldwin) arriving off-season at a resort town he habitually retired to in order to work, hoping to meet again a servant-girl (Lisi) he's enamored of employed at the hotel run by Randone; however, he's told she's no longer there…but notices that her cloak is still hanging in the closet, follows a woman in the streets he sees wearing it (and is eventually disappointed to learn the outfit now belongs to Lisi's replacement). Typically, he decides to delve deeper into the mysterious circumstances surrounding the former maid's demise – still, Randone and his family (Cortese assists in the managing of the establishment while brother Leroy owns a butcher shop situated in the courtyard of the hotel itself and, coincidentally, has just returned from his honeymoon with wealthy but naïve and sickly bride Lindstrom) generally evade his probing. Even the only man who's willing to help at first – a hunchbacked local photographer (I'm not sure about the actor's name but his face is awfully familiar!), who presents Baldwin with a photo in which Lisi is visibly pregnant – suddenly opts out and leaves town in a hurry!; then, there's Lisi's alcoholic bum of a father who seems to have nothing of value for the hero to work on – venting the anger and frustration over his daughter's loss by bursting into vitriolic (but ineffectual) nightly rants outside the hotel windows! At one point, Lindstrom makes a weak attempt to communicate with Baldwin but, before they can meet (he had previously noticed the girl walking aimlessly by the lake at night a number of times, but never quite mustered the nerve to confront her), she too is found dead! Eventually, the hero starts to think he may have gotten it all wrong: perhaps Lisi wasn't so much a victim of circumstance (periodically abused by both father and son!) as a femme fatale who got killed simply because she was too greedy.

The final revelation then, takes things in another direction altogether; while certainly effectively handled, the scene does perhaps constitute a slight let-down – as it won't surprise anyone familiar with Mario Bava's THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1963), actually the film credited with originating the giallo tradition, in which Cortese also features…

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