Obsession (1943) Poster


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So very, very different from the Hollywood film
MartinHafer23 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is a ripoff of James Cain's novel, THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE. Apparently, the director and producer never bothered to pay for rights to this story--perhaps the fact that we were in the middle of fighting the Italians in WWII might account for their forgetting to consider royalties! Despite this, the movie isn't really just an Italian version of the Hollywood movie. In some ways it's a lot better and in other ways, it is definitely not.

The three central characters in this movie are really pretty ugly people. In fact, the male and female lovers are a bit icky-looking. The male lead is pretty ordinary except for his profuse body hair (particularly on the back and shoulders) and his lady love is, to put it frankly, unattractive. They are a very, very far cry from Lana Turner and John Garfield in the Hollywood version. And the ill-fated husband is really, really obese and loves to walk around shirtless--and his counterpart in the American film, Cecil Kellaway is definitely better looking (and probably better looking than the other two Italian leads, actually). And this unattractiveness is generally a reason I actually preferred the Italian film--since I just could NOT imagine a finely coiffed "dish" like Lana Turner in the middle of nowhere married to Kellaway--I am 100% sure she would have had dozens of better offers! Whereas, the Italian wife frankly might NOT have been able to do much better and this made the marriage actually believable.

Part of the Italian film's believability comes from the blunt way it handles sex. The sanitized American film tries to make you believe that although Turner and Garfield kill Kellaway, they never actually get around to sex! This is pretty silly and totally unrealistic. In addition to the casual sexuality of the film, it's also pretty casual in showing the seamy side of life--with lots of sweaty people, a fly strip hanging over the kitchen table and everyone appeared to need a bath.

The movie is also pretty fast-paced compared to the over-long American film. And what you get due to brevity isn't all good. The film lacks a lot of the style and polish of the American film--with grainier footage, relatively poor orchestration and sets. It sure ain't a pretty film, but the Neo-Realistic-like style makes the film seem more realistic. But it cannot make up for the short-cuts in the plot. Many of the plot elements in the later American version are either missing entirely or glossed over. And the ending seems a lot less interesting than the American film--and misses the entire human nature dilemma when Turner and Garfield turn on each other like rats (the best part of the American film).

So which is the better film? Well, a lot of this probably depends on you. As for me, the Warner Brothers film was simply too polished and too unrealistic (though many like this style and may dislike watching films with subtitles)--but it packed a great ending. And the Italian film was much, much more realistic--until the crappy ending that seemed too rushed. So neither film is exactly great, but I'd give my nod to the Italian one being a bit better. It's too bad they couldn't have combined the best elements of both films into one exceptional film.
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A Masterpiece: The Original Story of `The Postman Rings Twice'
claudio_carvalho27 December 2003
Gino Costa (Massimo Girotti) is a young and handsome drifter who arrives in a road bar. He meets the young, beautiful and unsatisfied wife Giovanna Bragana (Clara Calamai) and her old and fat husband Giuseppe Bragana (Juan de Landa), owners of the bar. He trades his mechanical skills by some food and lodging, and has an affair with Giovanna. They both decide to kill Giuseppe, forging a car accident. The relationship of them become affect by the feeling of guilty and the investigation of the police. This masterpiece ends in a tragic way. The noir and neo-realistic movie of Luchino Visconti is outstanding. This is the first time that I watch this version of `The Postman Always Rings Twice'. I loved the 1946 version with Lana Turner, and the 1981 version, where Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange have one of the hottest sex scene in the history of the cinema, but this one is certainly the best. My vote is ten.
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The Visconti Debut
gavin69427 June 2017
Gino, a drifter, begins an affair with inn-owner Giovanna as they plan to get rid of her older husband.

Because this was based on the novel "The Postman Always Rings Twice", by James M. Cain, it was not widely seen outside of Italy. Apparently nobody bothered to get the rights to the novel before filming it. And because this is Luchino Visconti's first feature film, that means very few people were able to learn about Visconti until years later.

"Ossessione" is considered by many to be the first Italian neorealist film, though there is some debate about whether such a categorization is accurate. I have no opinion on that one way or the other. Though it may be true, it has not gone down as one of the biggest neorealist films, for whatever that may be worth.
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Ossessione (Obsession)
jboothmillard3 February 2016
Warning: Spoilers
This Italian film is one I found in the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book, I obviously wouldn't have known about it otherwise, so I hoped for the best, directed by Luchino Visconti (Senso, Rocco and His Brothers, The Leopard). Basically Gino Costa (Massimo Girotti) is a young and handsome wandering tramp / drifter, he arrives by chance at a small roadside inn / restaurant and filling station, run by beautiful young Giovanna Bragana (Clara Calamai). Giovanna is in an unhappy marriage with the restaurant owner (Juan de Landa), a fat old man who she finds disgusting, she only married him for his money, and she is inside screaming when he touches her and desperate to get away. Gino initially leaves town, but unable to get Giovanna out of his mind he subsequently returns and they start a passionate affair together, she refuses to run away with him, but they conspire together to get rid of the husband. Gio and Giovanna work together and murder the husband, then attempt to live happily ever after, but Gino is haunted by guilt, and when the long arm of the law does come calling to disrupt the couple's lives, Gino is convicted of accidental death, despite ironically getting over the actual murder. Also starring Elio Marcuzzo as Giuseppe Tavolato - "The Spaniard", Dhia Cristiani as Anita and Vittorio Duse as the Lorry Driver. The story is based on the book The Postman Always Rings Twice, and is full of interesting working class characters and drab settings, but this film was apparently so controversial it was banned by censors of Benito Mussolini, and fascists burned the negative, however the director managed to save a print, it has been credited as creating the Italian cinema movement of neorealism, it's a worthwhile drama. Good!
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The postman always rings best in Italy
dbdumonteil9 December 2007
First thing to bear in mind is that it is the second version of Cain 's "Postman always rings twice" .The first version was French and made in 1939 by Pierre Chenal with satisfying -but not outstanding -results.Two American Versions were to follow Visconti's ,Tay Garnett's film starring John Garfield and Lana Turner being the best of the two ,in spite of Jack Nicholson's and Jessica Lange's talent.

Luchino Visconti's "ossessione" beats them all.It features the best tramp,Massimo Girotti ,although John Garfield is a close second.Unlike the three other movies,it's not really a thriller,it's rather a psychological drama where James Cain's story often sounds as if it had been rewritten by Patricia Highsmith -which the presence of the gay Spanish man reinforces-.The lack of of picturesque in the depiction of Italian life predates Neorealism which officially began just after the war.Unlike Chenal's and Garnett's works ,you will not find here any suspense:the "accident" does not interest the director at all;nor the investigation.The movie deals with Gino's obsession :first his desire for Giovanna ,then with his remorse when he hears and sees his victim everywhere in the house.It also depicts Giovanna 's obsession: to live her passionate love while staying a respectable lady ,to stop being "invited by men";and to a lesser degree Lo Spagnolo's : in a very short scene ,he lights a cigarette and his match lights Gino's body.

"Ossessione" is a masterpiece of Italy's fascist years,at a time this country did not produce many great works.They say it shocked a lot of people.
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A daring debut, fusing melodrama, film-noir, and a realistic approach later to flourish after the war...
Quinoa198424 June 2004
Ossessione, adapted loosely by first time director Luchino Visconti, is no less outstanding with usage of mis-en-scene, music (both diegetic and non-diegetic), and the acting. I didn't know what to expect Visconti to do in his approach to the material, after seeing La Terra Trema and seeing how sometimes his political motivations snuck in a little bit. But this is a totally character and emotional based drama, bordering on melodrama (however, without the conventions that bog down lesser ones), and with the style in the finest path of the budding film-noir movement, Visconti creates a debut that's as involving as any other neo-realist film.

Neo-realism, by the way, could rightfully be claimed as this being a forefather (along with De Sica's The Children Are Watching Us), which that would take shape after the war. Although love and romance is more in play here than in some of the more famous neo-realist efforts, it's dealt with in a bare-bones storytelling fashion, and it's laced with other familiar themes in neo-realism (the lower-class, death, desperation).

Aside from the story, which is simply as it is described on this site, the artistry with which Visconti captures the images, and then layers them with objects (a shawl over Gino Costa's profile when in guilt), shadows and darkness that tend to overcome many of the later scenes in the film (usually over Gian and Giovanna), and the feel of the Italian streets in many of the exterior scenes. Domenico Scala and Aldo Tonti (who would lens some of Rossellini and Fellini's films) help in envisioning the look of Ossessione, which is usually moving in on a character, then pausing to read as much emotion on their faces, their voices and mannerisms lovely and ugly, sad and dark and romantic.

I think I've just scratched the surface on how effective it was that the film itself was moving me along, even as I was in fear of the futures of the two leads. The two leads (Massimo Girotti and Clara Calamai) portray all the compelling, truthful, and near-operatic emotions, and the key supporting actors are also without their attributes.

It's a brilliant, crushing adaptation, and it points as a striking signpost of what was to come for Visconti in his career.
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jotix10026 January 2006
Luchino Visconti was light years ahead of his contemporaries. The great directors of Italy of the 40s and 50s were men who understood the medium, but it was Luchino Visconti, a man of vision, who dared to bring a film like to show what he was capable of doing. He clearly shows his genius early on in his distinguished career with "Ossessione", a film based on James Cain's "The Postman Always Ring Twice", which was later made by Hollywood, but that version pales in comparison with what Visconti achieved in the movie. Luchino Visconti and his collaborators on the screen included an uncredited Alberto Moravia, a man who knew about the effect of passion on human beings.

The film has been well preserved in the DVD format we watched recently. The film is a must for all serious movie fans because we can see how Visconti's vision translated the text into a movie that rings true in a plausible way, something the American version lacked.

What comes across watching the movie, is the intensity which the director got from his key players. The magnificent Clara Calamai does an amazing job as Giovanna, the woman who has married an older man, but when Gino appears in her life, all she wants to do is rid herself of the kind man who gave her an opportunity in life. Giovanna is one of the best creations in Ms. Calamai's achievements in the Italian cinema. The last sequence of the film shows Ms. Calamai at her best in the ironic twist that serves as the moral redemption for the monstrous crime that was committed.

Equally excellent is Massimo Girotti, one of the best actors of his generation who appears as Gino, the hunky man that awakens the obsessive passion in Giovanna. Gino is the perfect man for Giovanna, something that Mr. Girotti projects with such ease and sophistication not equaled before in the screen. Mr. Girotti makes the man come alive in a performance that seems so easy, yet with another actor it might not have been so apparent. Juan DeLanda is seen as Giuseppe, the older man who fell in love with Giovanna. In fact, his character rings truer than his counterpart in the American film, where he is seen more as a buffoon.

The film is beautifully photographed by Domenic Scala and Aldo Tonti. They gave the film a naturalistic look that was the way Italian directors of the era favored. The original musical score of Giuseppe Rosati is perfect. Visconti, a man who loved opera and was one of the best directors, also includes arias by Bizet and Verdi that fit well in the context of the movie.

"Ossessione" is a film to treasure because we see a great Luchino Visconti at the top of his form.
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Great unofficial version of the "The Postman Always Rings Twice" is perhaps a tad bit overlong.
Boba_Fett11388 March 2010
Oh, those sneaky Italians. It's not the first time they based a movie on source material without the permission or knowledge of the, in this case, author of the novel. Of course this is not something that is typically Italian but got done quite a lot in the early days of cinema, mostly because they often thought they would be able to get away with it. James M. Cain's publishers managed to keep this movie off American screens until 1976 but nevertheless the movie itself has grown a bit into a well known classic.

The movie is not as great to watch as the 1946 American version but it's a great movie nevertheless. This of course not in the least is due to the movie it's great strong story, that is an intriguing one and provides the movie with some great characters and realism. It follows the novel quite closely and is therefore mostly the same as other movie versions of its story, with of course as a difference that it got set in an Italian environment.

Leave it up to the Italians to make a movie about life and the real people in it. These early drama's always have a very realistic feeling over it and are therefore also quite involving to watch. Unfortunately the movie lost some of its power toward the end, when the movie started to feel a bit overlong and dragging in parts. The movie could had easily ended 15 minutes earlier.

Nevertheless, I don't really have much else negative to say about this movie. It's simply a greatly made one, based on some equally great and strong source material. Quite an impressive directorial debut for Luchino Visconti, who continued to direct some many more great and memorable Italian dramatic movies.


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The postman rings twice in Italy, too!
The_Void11 January 2007
Well, I'd heard from somewhere that Ossessione is a precursor to the Italian film genre, and particular favourite of mine, the 'Giallo'...but actually, aside from the fact that this is a thriller that was made in Italy; the two have pretty much no relation. In the sixties and seventies, Italian film-makers would get themselves a reputation for ripping off just about every successful American film released. They've not done that here, but Ossessione does follow almost the exact same story as the later American film 'The Postman Always Rings Twice', without giving the book's author, James M. Cain, so much as a credit! Anyway, the plot focuses on Gino Costa, a handsome drifter who, by chance, stumbles upon a café where a woman named Giovanna Bragana works. He soon learns that she's married to Giuseppe; a big fat annoying man, whom Giovanna can't stand to have even touching her. He wants the pair of them to run away together, but she's not so keen on the idea. However, fate ends up intervening and her plan to have her husband murdered is successful...

Despite the fact that the film loses some credibility for not crediting the author whose story it's based on, it has to be said that director Luchino Visconti implements the film noir style well, and in a way I even prefer the atmosphere of this film to some of the bigger American noir classics. The story is, as you would expect, extremely strong and the Visconti manages to pull good performances out of his cast. Visconti drags the film out a little bit too much, however, and with a running time of almost 135 minutes, I felt that the story was too thin to warrant this kind of length. I almost feel guilty for levelling all this criticism at Ossessione as it IS a good film, but it's not a 'great' film. The relationship between the two central characters is never really explored properly, and it seems like the film is keener to distract us from it rather than let us into the characters' heads. There's not much mystery to the plot as we pretty much always know what's going on, and by not always focusing on the characters themselves; the film is not as interesting as it could have been. Still, it makes for an interesting viewing and comes recommended for that reason...although it's not as good as the 1946 version of the same James M. Cain classic.
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zetes21 June 2002
Visconti's first feature, Ossessione is an adaptation of James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice. Now, I'm not familiar with that book or the other film versions, but I am a big fan of Cain's Double Indemnity (much more so than I am a fan of Billy Wilder's film version of it, in fact). The two novellas seem like they must be very similar. Both involve an illicit love affair where a ravenous wife complains to a morally weak man that her husband is worthless and mean to her. Giovanna, the woman in this Italian version, played very well by Clara Calamai, is not evil incarnate like the wife in Double Indemnity, but she seems very spoiled. Her husband (a great performance by Juan de Landa) is a bit cruel to her, but she strikes me like she is at least as uncompromising with him. He's older than her and unattractive, so she's rather fickle. When Gino shows up, a young, muscular man, it takes her about five minutes to get him into bed. She sweats she wants to be with him forever, but she's stuck with her husband. They break up at first, but when they meet again, they (apparently, although this is intentionally vague) plan to murder the husband. They are successful, and they move back to the woman's home town to run the bar that her husband owned. Gino is very unenthusiastic about this idea. He wants Giovanna, but the one thing that he certainly doesn't want is to sit around in one place for the rest of his life. Their relationship quickly crumbles. Ossessione is a very complex film with complex characters. It's always fascinating, but it does go on a bit too long. At two hours and twenty-two minutes, I can't, for the life of me, figure out how it took that long! This is partly due to the neorealist stylistics that Visconti was inventing within this film. It was, after all, the first film that won that label. We see a lot of the action prolonged as it would be in real life, without any hurrying to the next plot point. I've seen many of Visconti's films, and the only one I like better than this one is Rocco and His Brothers (1960). His direction is as great as it ever was, with the camera moving brilliantly and the editing perfect. I also feel the need to point out the film's best performance, by Dhia Christiani as a young (exotic) dancer and part-time prostitute named Anita whom Gino meets after he begins to try to break away from Giovanna. She's only in the film for maybe five or six minutes, and she has only a few lines. It's shocking how much Visconti and Christiani are able to do with this character in such a short time. She's absolutely heartbreaking. 9/10.
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One of my favorites
Vincentiu31 December 2011
A beautiful couple. Ambiguous love story. Fat husband and proletarian Prince Charming. In fact, Luchino Visconti mark. Precise, deep and delicate. A film without definition. Not impressive, not great. Only a meditation about desire, feelings and music as axis of a life. About an Italy from many others, a way and sense of life. Measure of love and its ordinary price. So, it is not adaptation of a novel and not biography of a murder. It is a dusty tale of a man for who shadows are more important than rules of society. Map of a small and insignificant world. Nothing new, nothing special. Just long chain of victims. And classic music as window to a minimum sense of days. An experience and a break after powerful stories of Hollywood.
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Much better than its Hollywood adaption
lasttimeisaw19 June 2014
Warning: Spoilers
A double-bill of two vintage films adapted from James M. Cain's 1934 novel THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RING TWICE, 1946's Hollywood B&W version and Visconti's groundbreaking debut in 1943, while intentionally evade the less-championed 1981 remake with Nicholson and Lange.

The 1946 film, directed by the prolific journeyman Tay Garnett, is a less riveting Film-Noir compared to Billy Wilder's DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944, 8/10), virulently extends the mismatch of the married couple Cora and Nick by casting the stunning beauty Lana Turner and the nondescript good fellow Cecil Kellaway, bar the gaping age difference, they don't belong together in any universe. The interloper is the shifty-looking drifter Frank (John Garfield), the unscrupulousness is all on his face, and driven by lust he falls for her at the first sight. But as the code of this specific genre, the evil thrust is almost inclusively kick-started by the female-fatale, "I wanna be somebody!", as Cora contests, she is stuck in a miasma and Frank is the last straw.

As the title suggests, there are two attempts of murder (poor Nick), after a botched first one, in order to facilitate the second one, the film hastily piles up all the stimulus, including a horrid one when Nick decides to wrap up their business and move back to his hometown in Canada, and wait for the worst part, Cora will be coerced to attend to Nick's bed-ridden sister. Nick must die, there is just no other way around. It is a cheap shot.

After a fine touch with echoes, Nick is dispatched successfully, then the film spirals with its poorly contrived script including the cringe-making mediation of the justice system and the worst double-cross scam from the DA Mr. Sackett (Ames), who has been ominously introduced in the very beginning of the film. Yet, we must buy it and the two get away with the murder. (An honorable mention to Hume Cronyn's remarkable impersonation as the vile attorney).

But wrongdoers can never be spared in the mainstream media at then, unexpectedly, one almost steps into the trap of a bolder and more wicked twist when they return to the beach and swim to their strength's extremity, however, it is only a bluff, the ending is more self-righteous and insignificantly self-serving.

Right near the opening scenes, the glaring fake backgrounds almost haul me out of the context, some oldies are simply can not be taken too seriously with today's standards, thankfully, Lana Turner can pacify the sketchy slackness with her engrossing portrait of a woman at the end of her tether, she is good, but not in the same league as Stanwyck's excellence.

By comparison OBSESSION, made 3 years before the Hollywood version, is an audacious maiden work which injects tremendous pathos into its two main roles with strenuous character- dissections assisted by onerous fieldwork. Visconti ditched its original title and transposed the story in a village near Ancona with authentic settings, an accepted trailblazer of Neorealismo movement and a tour-de-force of chiaroscuro finesse.

A thirty-some Giovanna (Calamai) is the wife of a trattoria owner Giuseppe (the opera chanting Juan de Landa), distressed by Giuseppe's negligence and ill-treatment and disgusted by his obesity, her passion is instantaneously ignited when she meets Gino (a masculine-built and smoldering hot Girotti), a diddling young tramp in his 20s, they sleep together the very afternoon of the day, with a ballsy nuance, the advances are in fact instigated from the female part.

For Gino, a mature and attractive woman is like an oasis in the desert, but he is much wiser (and more sensible) than Frank, when Giovanna bails on their elopement, he has the balls to leave her for good, gets going on with his fellow itinerant Lo Spagnolo "The Spanish" (a prematurely- deceased Elio Marcuzzo), this interlude is not in the novel, but Visconti never miss a chance to enhance the ambiguous rapport between men, and here, it has been teased out brilliantly with the side-by-side sitting which will appear again with a different undercurrent.

But destiny has its own plans, Gino reunites with Giuseppe and Giovanna during a festival, and this time he has no strength to resist the temptation, after the festive cacophony, including a jolly episode of Giuseppe contests in a singing competition, en route to their trattoria, out of an act of passion, they fake a road accident and Giuseppe is killed.

After that, without the distracting offshoots of courtroom drama and the conceited detectives or snooty lawyers, the film fixates on the aftermath where they have to live on with the consequences of their unforgivable deeds, especially for Gino, he is not the type of person who can hatch a murder scheme, he is seductive but never lethal. Yet, his love for Giovanna is too intense and it overpowers his soundness of judgment, Girotti proves he is not just a burly stallion, unlike Garfield, Gino's psychological fluctuations are potently presented, and his fling with a plain-looking prostitute Anita (Cristiani) indicates his unsophisticated nature.

As for Giovanna, she is an ordinary wife who needs to break out her mundane life with a man she doesn't love, at the same time, she is afraid of uncertainty, especially under the WWII backwater, she should be content but she couldn't, especially when lust presides. Calamai is less glamorous but more impressive to exert her conversion from a sulky, manipulative housewife to a vulnerable and pitiful captive for the man she wholeheartedly loves. Their reconciliation is genuinely touching and the abrupt ending is much more plaintive and sob-inducing.

There is alway a mixed feeling after a double bill because you cannot love or hate them equally, confessionally, Visconti's debut would not be so exceptional if I had not watched the Hollywood adaptation beforehand, peer comparison does have its direct effect, I should try it more often.
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Unauthorized and Overlong
kenjha9 April 2010
In this unauthorized adaptation of James Cain's "The Postman Always Rings Twice," a drifter falls for the wife of the owner of a roadside inn and the two plot to murder him. While the 1946 Hollywood version of the book wisely focuses on the lovers, this Italian version includes subplots involving the drifter's friends that make it drag and go on much too long. Not helping matters is the poor quality of the print, which comes from Visconti himself after the original negative was destroyed. The flickering images make it look more like a silent film than one made in 1943. This is not a bad directorial debut for Visconti, but his screenplay is not only plagiarized but rambling.
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Fascinating retelling of a James M. Cain noir classic.
Infofreak22 July 2003
I'll be upfront - I know nothing about Italian neo-realism, and the only Visconti movie I'd seen prior to this was his silly but enjoyable nazisploitation classic 'The Damned'. But I'm a great fan of James M. Cain's pulp crime classic 'The Postman Always Rings Twice', and this superb retelling of it fascinated me from beginning to end. A few crucial plot points are changed, an interesting supporting character ("The Spaniard") has been added, and the movie has a very different tone from what Cain fans might expect. The original novella, and the subsequent Hollywood versions of it (in '46 and '81) are thrillers, 'Ossessione' isn't. It's more of a story of a doomed love affair. The basic plot is the same - a drifter has a passionate fling with an unhappily married woman and helps her murder her husband - but Visconti approaches the material in a very different manner. The movie is brilliantly filmed, and the acting by the three leads are first rate. You really get a genuine insight into 1940s Italian working class life. The character of The Spaniard adds an interesting touch to the story with a possible homosexual relationship between Gino and himself. It's very subtle but it's there if you look. I thought making Giovanna pretty but not a complete bombshell like Lana Turner added to the realism and credibility of the story. I also was impressed by the small role played by the dancer/part time prostitute Gino buys an ice cream for towards the end of the picture. She doesn't get much screen time sadly, but she is really wonderful. The movie is surprisingly frank for the time and period (Mussolini's Italy), much more realistic and earthy than Hollywood movies of the same period. If you are looking for a straight forward thriller then the Lana Turner/John Garfield version of 'The Postman Always Rings Twice' is probably the better place to start, but if you want to see a brilliant drama then this is the superior movie in my opinion.
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Neo realist in style but above all film noir in substance
frankde-jong27 March 2021
"Ossessione" is the debut as director of Luchino Visconti. The film is alternately labeled as film noir and neo realist, and that has puzzled me for a long time. Now I think it is neo realist in style and film noir in substance c.q. Plot.

Neo realist in style because the film makes not the slightes effort to create a dreamlike world. The people are poor and the landscape (of the Italian Po valley) is ugly. Not real an advertisement for fascist Italy. The Italian government was not amused with "Ossessione" and tried to destroy it. Happily some copies survived. Nevertheless for me the first real neo realist movie of Visconti remains "La terra trema" (1948).

Film noir in substance because "Ossessione" is an adaptation of the 1934 novel "The postman always rings twice" by James M. Cain. The title of the film was changed to bypass copyrights, just the way Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau escaped copyrights by calling his adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula "Nosferatu" (1922). In 1946 "The postman always rings twice" was adapted (under the original name) by Gay Tarnett and in 1981 Bob Rafelson made a remake. It was a good period for James M. Cain adaptations because in 1944 Billy Wilder made what many consider the ultimate film noir after the 1943 Cain novel "Double indemnity". Compared with this film the style of "Ossessione" is not 100% film noir. For this the Italian sun is much too bright. Only in the interior scenes we get some of the playing with shadows for which film noir is renowned.

When we compare the three "The postman always rings twice" adaptations with "Double indemnity" (1944, Billy Wilder) the difference is mainly in the role of the female character. In "Double indemnity" she is a real femme fatale who seduces and abuses the male for her own financial benefit. In "The postman always rings twice" the female is in love herself ans financial motives play a less prominemt role (but are not non excisting).

When we compare the three "The postman always rings twice" adaptations between themselves the first thing that catches the eye is that the 1946 version sugests sex while the 1981 version explicitly shows sex. "Ossessione" is in between, but (logically) closer to the 1946 version that to the 1981 version. "Ossessione" also only suggests, but it does so in a much more sultry and erotic way. Surprisngly the most erotic scenes are not between the male (Massimo Girotti) and female (Clara Calamai) lead but between the male lead and the prostitute Anita (Dhia Cristiani).
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An air of despair and forlornness hangs over every frame
PimpinAinttEasy16 October 2015
Warning: Spoilers
My third VIsconti film. I don't think I would watch another one of his films in the near future.

I prefer the American version of Cain's novel. That was a lot more dynamic and entertaining.

Parts of Ossessione were overtly dramatic. The use of background score was very jarring at times. The many scenes of brutal realism were too long and boring. Visconti uses long shots for the desolate Italian countryside. I wasn't all that impressed by the "animal lust" (according to some reviewers) portrayed by the two characters .

But if I was asked to list the positives, the performances were excellent. The characterization was fantastic - two tortured souls unable to find pleasure or happiness in any sort of environment. This aspect of the characters is foregrounded just after their first love making session when the female lets it out that she is never going to leave this place because it would mean more dinner invitations from strange men.

An air of despair and forlornness hangs over every frame(especially towards the end). Visconti lays it on thick that these are doomed characters.

The war-time Italy in this film is in direct contrast to the prosperous post-war one in Dino Risi's Il Sorpasso (1962). Both films had somewhat similar endings.

i think its time for a temporary divorce between Visconti and me.

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Some viewers still crazy about its magnetism and realism
marcin_kukuczka6 April 2008
When people nowadays hear of a 1940s drama, they usually appear to create a distance of irony claiming that it's another tearjerker with great stars in the lead of tragic, melancholic roles. This opinion, however, does not resemble Neorealist movies, in particular this one directed by Count Luchino Visconti. OSSESSIONE as his debut once censored and once cherished as nearly a realistic masterpiece is still loved by some people and strongly criticized by others. The contradictory opinions about the film that have appeared in these 65 years seem to have been caused by the content of the movie itself, exceptionally controversial for modern times as well as the past. At the same time, while being based on the novel by James M. Cain, THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE, it is one of the most genuine screen adaptations where director remains his own style, view, his own art. I have seen the film twice and the second viewing led me to very detailed analysis part of which I'd like to entail below.

First, Visconti's movie seems to touch all psychology and actions that people may do in life, in particular those absorbed by desire. These people make such tragic decisions in spite of terrible consequences they are bound to face. Gino (Massimo Girotti) a traveler with "bear like shoulders" turns up at the crossroad of a motorway near Ferrara and enters the tavern. Although many people go there to have a meal, Gino occurs to get something more - much more: the indefatigable desire of beautiful Giovanna (Clara Calamai) a woman already married to an elderly man who runs the bar, Mr Giuseppe Bragana (Juan De Landa). Her body and her song possess his mind totally and from the moment of their first love, the couple plan to get rid of the old obstacle and build up a new life together... However, are people bound to wrong deeds in face of desire? Can one build love upon murder? What is love and what is loyalty? Does desire lead to a dangerous addiction or even obsession? Such questions intensely arise while watching the movie, when, to the core, the viewer is supplied with an insight into characters. "We have to love each other affectionately" answers Giovanna seemingly giving a cure to all crying conscience but may desirous love justify and cure everything? "Isn't it what we both wanted" says one of the couple... it occurs that it's not. Therefore, the content of the film appears to be very dangerous if not analyzed with intellect and heart. Yet, it constantly remains thought provoking.

Second, OSSESSIONE has a very strong point that talks to modern viewers: brilliant moments and marvelous cinematography, which go in pair with memorable sequences and visual power. These make a modern viewer realize that a film made almost 70 years ago is absolutely entertaining to watch. They range from tasteful erotic images to purely technical shots. Who can possibly skip that moment in Ferrara where Gino meets a beautiful girl, a sort of "Ragazza Perfetta" (perfect girl), a dancer Anita and buys her ice cream. His desires show him totally different direction... Do viewers remain indifferent at Gino-Giovanna's first meeting? The first focus of camera is on Giovanna's legs seemingly representing carnal desire over love that Gino experiences. A marvel of shot is Gino and Giovanna leaving the investigation room and the closeup of their shadows that directs our attention towards their suspicious look.

Third, OSSESSIONE can boast outstanding performances both from the leading pair as well as the supporting cast. Massimo Girotti once said in an interview that working in this movie had been one of the most difficult jobs he had ever done; yet, consequently, what comes out is a flawless acting. He portrays a bisexual man torn within desires who commits a crime but cannot stand any of the objects that remind him of his victim, which represents conscience. His bisexuality is indicated through the character of Lo Spagnolo (Elio Marcuzzo) whom he meets in very surprising circumstances in the train for Ancona. Clara Calamai, who was cast in the role after eminent Anna Magnani had refused, fits very well to the role and we may claim that there is a true chemistry between the couple. They are both very convincing. Besides, I liked Juan De Langa in the role of Bragana: he portrays an old husband not affectionate to his wife and still crazy about high art. In some of his most witty moments, he asks his wife to wash his back or walks in the empty streets singing his favorite opera songs after sort of karaoke performance.

In sum, we, as modern viewers who are capable of critical view, have to look at this film very objectively. It is art for sure thanks to the aspects aforementioned, it is a powerful story as well thanks to the controversy it carries; yet, is it educational? Visconti was not Fellini who said that he did not carry any message for humanity. In such case, his films would only entertain (which is, of course, not entirely Fellini's style, too). Visconti always had something to convey. What did he want to say here? Is the film against bad marriage? Or is it against wrong actions of people absorbed by desire? The final shocking moments say for themselves. Though you don't have to agree with the vision, OSSESSIONE is really a wonderfully realistic film, one of Visconti's best 8/10
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The Italian 'The Postman Always Rings Twice'...
tim-764-2918566 April 2012
I've always enjoyed the story that spawned two Hollywood adaptations, largely laden with sex, written by James M Cain, both called The Postman Always Rings Twice'. The first film made of it was the French 'Le Dernier Tournament', in 1939.

Luchino Visconti's debut feature, here, 'Ossessione' is accredited as being the first of the Italian 'Neorealism' movement. As is widely known, Mussolini's censors banned the film and the Fascists burned the original negative. Visconti saved a print from destruction and may explain why this transfer (the only one?) looks similar to films we usually associate with those of the mid-late 1920's, it being so poor.

Not only grainy, it almost pops in and out of focus and has scratches permanently weaving over it. The film flickers with changing amounts of light. The sound isn't much better. Despite all these technical deficiencies it is always hugely watchable and ultimately enjoyable.

Unlike those two Hollywood versions, that as I said were sexed-up, Visconti's PG certificate version is a lot more innocent and stops at kissing, which is still quite daring for its time. The rest of the story is filled up to its 140 minutes with Italian life, its people and culture, all vibrantly shot and revealed and so, marks a real contrast with the U.S versions.

The three key actors, Massimo Girotti as the handsome drifter (later played by John Garfield & Jack Nicolson), Clara Calamai as the beautiful wife (later, by Lana Turner & Jessica Lange) and Juan de Landa, the husband (later Cecil Kellaway & John Colicos) - are all well cast and play their parts well.

Apparently, it was the way that the working-class were portrayed, with loose morals that upset the Fascist censors. Thank goodness this didn't put off Visconti who later went on to make some of the most noted films in Italian film history, such as The Leopard and Death In Venice.
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You could watch it ten times and still delight in its nuances.
Ben_Cheshire26 May 2004
Wow! The sort of movie you could watch ten times and still delight in its nuances. Absolutely incredible! If this was Visconti's debut film, i shudder to think what would happen if he got any better from film to film. The only other one of his i've seen (at time of writing) is Death in Venice - which was absolutely incredible: more dazzling visually than Ossessione (Obsession). One of the most beautiful films i've ever seen, but its story was not as involving as Ossessione. If you click on "miscellaneous" on this page's links, there are stills from the movie on those websites. They won't really do justice to the experience of the movie: such graceful camera movements, such beautiful composition, such wonderful faces, such terrific characters, such a great story development, the first movie adapted from James M Cain's "The Postman Always Rings Twice."

I can't believe this was made in 43, eight years before Brando was supposed to have introduced realistic acting to the world with Streetcar Named Desire (1951). The actors in this may not have used the method technique, ie they may not have truly felt everything themselves (i don't know anything about it) - but they're some of the best, most genuine and realistic performances up to this date in cinema. Also, eight years before Streetcar Named Desire brought a new sensuality to the screen, Ossessione was electrifyingly sensual! The most sensual thing since the beginning of cinema! Yes, i'm being superlative, but Ossessione was just that terrific.

The reason Ossessione didn't cause the impact Streetcar did was that it was made in fascist Italy and banned by Mussolini, and re-cut in America. American audiences didn't see its full glory till 59, eight years AFTER Streetcar.

I won't say any more about it - just writing to tell you its one of the best, most beautiful and exciting movies i've ever seen, and tell you to go out and see it! Like another reviewer, i'm going to buy it as soon as i can find it!
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A mature and layered adaptation !!!
avik-basu18891 October 2016
'Ossessione' was great Italian filmmaker Luchino Visconti's debut film. 'Ossessione' is based on James M. Cain's novel 'The Postman Always Rings Twice'.

The aforementioned novel has been adapted quite a few times in America. But I think Visconti's film succeeds in properly portraying the struggles of the characters in a very believable manner. This film actually elevates the subject matter of the book to some extent. While the book was all about the theme 'crime doesn't pay', the film adds a touch of humanity to the theme to make the film very moving.

Is the film sexy and erotic? Certainly. It has all the titillating aspects of the original source material as Massimo Girotti and Clara Calamai crank up the heat. But apart from the eroticism, the film also brilliantly explores the characters. We understand the hesitations, the temptations, the motivations and the grief of both Giovanna and Gino. Visconti does a great job of setting the storyline in Italy. This allowed Visconti to place the socio- economic problems of wartime Italy in the background of the story. The financial inadequacy plays a big role in justifying the motivations of the characters.

The film is certainly a morality tale too. It is concerned with the temptation to indulge in criminal activities and how such choices more often than not lead to catastrophe. However, Visconti doesn't judge or vilify any character. He treats them with respect and doesn't take their humanity away from them.

From a technical standpoint, I was impressed by the shot selection of Visconti and the way he composed his frames. There are some breathtaking moments that stand out like the shot in the initial part of the film where the camera after tracking sideways suddenly rises(via a crane) above the truck to shift the focus from Bragana to Gino to show us whom this film would follow, or the shot of Giovanna verbalising her past struggles to Gino while sitting on a chair in a painfully hunched posture, or the beautiful sequence where Giovanna hints at the favour that she wants Gino to do for her and her love which almost plays out like a choreographed dance sequence as she moves around with Gino following behind her in the room,etc. Visconti's movement of the camera already seemed very assured for his debut film.

The acting in the film is outstanding. Massimo Girotti has a strong masculine presence. But he also has the range to shift from a confident man to being a man riddled with guilt. Calamai also gives a very layered performance. One can easily see the pain and insecurity in her eyes.

'Ossessione' is sometimes regarded as the first Italian neo-realist film. Now that is something that can be questioned, but in my mind what can't be questioned is the depth and layers that Visconti adds to the film which could have easily been reduced to a pulp crime thriller. He makes the film socially poignant. Highly Recommended.
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Of course I liked it
"Ossessione", meaning Obsession, is based on James Cain novel "The Postman Always Rings Twice", which is my namesake on IMDB, so it was a near guarantee that I was going to love this movie. I did. This film is full of everything that would get it banned in Italy in the 1940's: passionate sex, brutal violence, tension and intrigue. It's a simple story and one that has been given the variation treatment throughout many Film Noir films, but things are not what they seem. Ah, marvelous!
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First version of Ruth Snyder-Judd Gray murder...
faraaj-15 November 2006
The Ruth Snyder - Judd Gray murder in 1927 inspired Ogden Nash to write a Broadway play called Machinal. More famously, it inspired James M. Cain to write two short novels which anyone who has actually reached the point where they are reading this review would be familiar with - Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice. Both became film noir classics of the 1940's, Double Indemnity being arguably the most perfect noir ever made. Some of the real-life elements of the Snyder-Gray story were captured by Cain - the old age and indifference of Albert Gray, Ruth's high sex drive, Ruth and Judd's passionate affair and complicity in the murder and that famous double indemnity insurance clause. Missing elements included the fact that the actual setting was a very urban Manhattan - Albert Snyder being a respected newspaper editor. The numerous incompetent and failed attempts were also ignored in order to cut to the chase.

Cain's Double Indemnity was filmed perfectly by Billy Wilder - let's ignore Stanwyck's ridiculous wig as one of those interesting accidents of film lore! The Postman Always Rings Twice, however, was filmed thrice and Ossessione, an Italian version and Luchino Visconti's first film, was the first of three versions. Before commenting on it, I'll recommend the Lana Turner - John Garfield version of 1946 in its entirety and five minutes of the 1981 Jack Nicholson - Jessica Lange version for the great sex scene on the dining table.

Ossessione is not as noirish as The Postman Always Rings Twice. It has a strong neo-realist look which makes it a great movie, but a lot of the essential noir elements are missing. It does not have low-key lighting and unconventional camera angles. The dialog is not hard-boiled and instead the film concentrates more on characterization. This is the longest version of the story and goes deeply into characterization. Its also a lot more sexual than the Lana Turner version. We have a very obvious adulterous relationship and Giovanna is very obviously a nymphomaniac. A new character is introduced into the story - La Spagnola - with very obvious homosexual overtones. There is also a small, but very well-played role for a dancer who moonlights as a prostitute.

This is a far greater study of the working class than of crime. The audience really gets the feeling of poverty and grime. The drifter is a complete tramp, the wife is no Lana Turner and may even have been a prostitute before marriage. Her husband is an obscene capitalist - obese, rude and arrogant. I think the casting was brilliant for this film. My only beef is with the overlong running time. Everything is drawn out too long and it would have been more effective if it had been more economical. Nevertheless, fans of noir and realism will definitely like Ossessione, as I did.
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Much ahead of its time and still powerful
debblyst3 November 2003
Watching "Ossessione" today -- more than 6 decades later -- is still a powerful experience, especially for those interested in movie history and more specifically on how Italian filmmakers changed movies forever (roughly from "Ossessione" and De Sica's "I Bambini Ci Guardano", both 1943, up to 20 years later with Fellini, Antonioni, Pasolini). Visconti makes an amazing directing début, taking the (uncredited) plot of "The Postman Always Rings Twice" as a guide to the development of his own themes.

It strikes us even today how ahead of its time "Ossessione" was. Shot in Fascist Italy during World War II (think about it!!), it depicted scenes and themes that caused the film to be immediately banned from theaters -- and the fact that it used the plot of a famous American novel and payed no copyright didn't help.

"Ossessione" alarmingly reveals poverty-ridden war-time Italy (far from the idealized Italy depicted in Fascist "Telefoni Bianchi" movies); but it's also extremely daring in its sexual frankness, with shirtless hunk Gino (Massimo Girotti, who definitely precedes Brando's Kowalski in "A Streetcar Named Desire") taking Giovanna (Clara Calamai), a married woman, to bed just 5 minutes after they first meet. We watch Calamai's unglamorous, matter-of-fact undressing and the subtle but undeniable homosexual hints between Gino and Lo Spagnolo (Elio Marcuzzo - a very appealing actor, his face not unlike Pierre Clémenti's, who was shot by the Nazis in 1945, at 28 years old!)...In a few words: sex, lust, greed and poverty, as relentlessly as it had rarely, if ever, been shown before in Italian cinema.

All the copies of "Ossessione" were destroyed soon after its opening -- it was called scandalous and immoral. Visconti managed to save a print, and when the film was re-released after the war, most critics called it the front-runner of the Neo-Realist movement, preceding Rossellini's "Roma CIttà Aperta" and De Sica's "Sciuscià". Some other critics, perhaps more appropriately, saw "Ossessione" as the Italian counterpart to the "poetic realism" of French cinema (remember Visconti had been Renoir's assistant), especially Marcel Carné's "Quai des Brumes" and "Le Jour se Lève", and Julien Duvivier's "Pépé le Moko".

While "Ossessione" may be Neo-Realistic in its visual language (the depiction of war-time paesan life in Italy with its popular fairs, poverty, child labor, prostitution, bums, swindlers etc), the characters and the themes were already decidedly Viscontian. He was always more interested in tragic, passionate, obsessive, greedy characters, in social/political/sexual apartheid, in the decadence of the elites than in realistic, "everyday- life" characters and themes, favored by DeSica and Rossellini. In "Ossessione" we already find elements of drama and tragedy later developed in many of his films, especially "Senso" (Visconti's definitive departure from Neo-Realist aesthetics) and "Rocco e Suoi Fratelli"...Even in his most "Neo-Realist" film, "La Terra Trema", he makes his fishermen rise from day-to-day characters to mythological figures.

"Ossessione" is a good opportunity to confirm the theory about great artists whose body of work approaches, analyzes and develops specific themes and concerns over and over again, from their first to their last opus, no matter if the scenery, background or time-setting may change -- Visconti may play with the frame but the themes and essence of his art are, well, obsessively recurrent. "Ossessione" is not to be missed: you'll surely be fascinated by this ground-breaking, powerful film.
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Italian neorealism at its purest form
Filmdokter7 September 2021
Ossessione is generally seen as the first Italian neorealist film. And not just that, it's also considered to be one of its best. I can see why: celebrated director Visconti delivers a well shot, scripted film with some impressive blocking / mise en scene. I particularly love the shot where Girotti first enters the cafe, later clearly copied by Leone for Jills entrance in Sweetwater. The acting by the two leads is superb: you can feel the obsession they feel in the way they look at each other. It's not my favorite Italian neorealist film though. I personally prefer Rome Open City and Bicycle Thieves. Although Ossessione is more of a neorealist film than those other two, the typical Italian melodramatic aspect (which I love) is less present in Ossessione and therefore makes it a somewhat more exhausting and less enjoyable watch.
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Masterpiece saved
Jim Tritten22 June 2002
A masterful treatment of James Caine's "The Postman Always Rings Twice" as Luchino Visconti's first film shot primarily around Ferrara in a soulless war-torn Italy. The original negative was thought destroyed but Visconti saved a print and fortunately we can see this early neo-realist work today. A ruggedly handsome Massimo Girotti and Clara Calamai (who had recently revealed her breasts in La Cena delle beffe" (1941), star as the sensually-charged and ill-fated lovers who plot to kill her husband. Unusual ending in which, although crime does not pay, one pays in a way not directly linked to the crime. Excellent direction, script, acting, and cinematography. Reportedly not as good as the French "Le Dernier tournant' (1939) but probably better than the US version (1946) featuring Lana Turner and John Garfield in the lead roles. Highly recommended.
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