Obsession (1976)

PG  |   |  Drama, Mystery, Thriller  |  13 September 1976 (Sweden)
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Ratings: 6.8/10 from 5,614 users  
Reviews: 55 user | 64 critic

A businessman becomes fixated upon a young woman who resembles his dead wife.



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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Michael Courtland
Elizabeth Courtland / Sandra Portinari
Robert Lasalle
Sylvia Kuumba Williams ...
Maid (as Sylvia 'Kuumba' Williams)
Wanda Blackman ...
Amy Courtland
Third Kidnapper (as Patrick McNamara)
Stanley J. Reyes ...
Insp. Brie
Nick Kreiger ...
Farber (as Nick Krieger)
Stocker Fontelieu ...
Dr. Ellman
Don Hood ...
Andrea Esterhazy ...
Thomas Carr ...
Paper Boy
Tom Felleghy ...
Italian Businessman
Nella Simoncini Barbieri ...
Mrs. Portinari
John Creamer ...
Justice of the Peace


New Orleans businessman Michael Courtland's life is shattered when his wife and daughter are tragically killed in a botched kidnap rescue attempt. Many years later whilst visiting Italy he meets and falls in in love with Sandra Portinari, who bears a striking resemblance to his wife. Written by Col Needham <col@imdb.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The love story that will scare the life out of you See more »


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

13 September 1976 (Sweden)  »

Also Known As:

Deja Vu  »

Box Office


$1,400,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Brian De Palma's older brother Bart painted the portraits that appear in the film. See more »


When Court and Elizabeth are briefly seen dancing to a conspicuous waltz soundtrack (roughly five minutes into the film), their movements and steps are nowhere near in the style of a waltz, clearly indicating that the scene was filmed to another music, with the waltz soundtrack added later. See more »


Sandra Portinari: [noticing Michael watching her paint] Buon Giorno!
Michael Courtland: [smiles politely] Buon Giorno.
Sandra Portinari: [motions to her painting and speaks in Italian] Do you like it?
Michael Courtland: [answering slowly in halting Italian] I don't speak Italian.
Sandra Portinari: [speaks in English] That's okay. I speak English. You are an American?
See more »

Crazy Credits

The film has no end credits, other than the words "The End" in the final frame. See more »


Referenced in Waking the Dead (2000) See more »

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User Reviews

16 July 2001 | by (Queens, New York) – See all my reviews

"Obsession" is one of Brian DePalma's most underrated films. It is a thriller of tremendous power and grace. It is also the recipient of some of the most negative reviews in DePalma's very checkered history.

I personally think that Brian DePalma is one of our very best directors. I would even classify him as a great director. His best films are his thrillers, which are inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's work. Most critics think DePalma is nothing more than someone who rips off Hitchcock. But in his defense, he does not rip off Hitch. He is his own artist. He has his own agenda in each and every film he has made.

"Obsession" is often touted as a "rehash of Vertigo". But DePalma takes the basic premise and turns it upside down, creating twists and revelations that Hitchcock only dreamed of. The film stars Cliff Robertson, in his usual fine performance as a man whose wife and daughter are kidnapped and killed in a setup gone bad. The film opens in 1959 and then skips ahead to 1975 with Robertson standing at the graves (really nice camerawork in this sequence as time fades away) Robertson is in Italy for business when he sees a young woman who strongly resembles his late wife (since both are played by Genevieve Bujold, this is no coincidence)You can pretty much guess the rest.

Or can you? What makes "Obsession" really stand out is the final 25 minutes in which DePalma and cowriter Paul Schrader (himself a fine director; his credits include "Hardcore", "Blue Collar", "American Gigolo" and "Mishima")put in so many twists and turns that a second viewing may be necessary to sort out all the details. While most people may dismiss this as a ripoff of "Vertigo", remember that at this time "Vertigo" was currently unavailable period. No TV viewings, no tapes, no theatrical runs, nothing. DePalma may have been trying to make a film to fill the void left behind by that disappearance. But he makes a film that is more satisfying than the Hitchcock film. "Vertigo", brilliant as it was, was a real downer. "Obsession" is shorter at 98 minutes, but it has a delibirate pace that makes it feel longer. In a lesser work, it would be intolerable, but here it is appropriate.

The technical credits are solid as a rock. The Panavision photography by Vilmos Zsigmond is outstanding as is the Bernard Herrmann score (his next to last). Robertson and Bujold give strong performances, but it is DePalma regular John Lithgow who is the most memorable.

See "Obsession" two or three times to get the full effect. It takes some effort to get used to, but it's worth it.

**** out of 4 stars

27 of 38 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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