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The Possessed (1965)

La donna del lago (original title)
Not Rated | | Crime, Drama, Mystery | 14 August 1965 (Italy)
A popular writer visits his favorite holiday destination during the off season looking for the woman he is secretly infatuated with, only to find out that she has committed suicide, but did she really?


Giovanni Comisso (novel), Giulio Questi (screenplay) | 2 more credits »




Complete credited cast:
Peter Baldwin ... Bernard, the writer
Salvo Randone ... Enrico
Valentina Cortese ... Irma
Pia Lindström ... Adriana (as Pia Lindstrom)
Pier Giovanni Anchisi Pier Giovanni Anchisi ... Francesco - Photographer (as Piero Anchisi)
Ennio Balbo Ennio Balbo ... Coroner
Anna Maria Gherardi Anna Maria Gherardi ... Servant girl (as Anna Gherardi)
Bruno Scipioni Bruno Scipioni ... (credit only)
Mario Laurentino Mario Laurentino ... Doctor
Vittorio Duse ... The Police Officer
Philippe Leroy ... Mario
Virna Lisi ... Tilde


The famous writer Bernard travels to a small town nearby a lake to spend vacation out of season in the winter. He check in an old hotel owned by Enrico and his daughter Irma expecting to meet the maid Tilde, from whom he had a crush last time he visited the town. However, he discovers that Tilde has committed suicide and when he meets the local photographer, Bernard learns that she was pregnant. He becomes obsessed to find whether she really committed suicide and to guess what really happened. When Enrico's son Mario and his wife Adriana arrive at the hotel, Bernard has daydreams about the fate of Tilde. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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Beautiful, undeservedly obscure proto giallo
26 November 2005 | by Francoesque-2See all my reviews

Having been very impressed by co-director Bazzoni's subsequent "The Fifth Cord", I have been very keen to see "The Lady of the Lake" since I first heard of it four or five years ago when i read Adrian Luther Smith's Excellent "Bloody and Black Lace" - a definitive collection of giallo reviews. It appears, under the title "The Possessed" in the obscure and rare titles section, along with a superlative review. Subsequent attempts to track the title down were in vain, until I popped into El Corte Ingles on my most recent Spanish holiday and found it on Filmax's "Giallo" collection under the title "El Mujer Del Lago". This is the only DVD outing I've ever heard of and there were both pros (a fantastic anamorphic print) and cons (it's Spanish and Italian only, with Spanish subs) - the cons apply as I'm an English speaker, but I was able to manage enough Spanish (with my dictionary at hand) to navigate through this beautiful, atmospheric film in Spanish with subs showing.

It's as good as it's advance word suggests - an ice cool, incredibly shot mood piece which emerges as a giallo only in hindsight, as at the time it was filmed, the concept hadn't been formed and we were still four years away from the giallo cycle proper which was initiated by the box office success of Argento's "The Bird with the Crystal Plummage" and Martino's "The Case of the Scorpion's Tail" amongst others.

The plot: A writer returns to the small town where he had vacationed previously. he's keen to meet up with his former maid, Tilde, with whom he had enjoyed a romance previously. However, she isn't there and the locals are not keen on talking about why. As he goes through the town, casual encounters build up an atmosphere of menace as everyone seems to be brushing her untimely death under the carpet. The writer presses on in his investigations, seeking the facts behind her death and finding an awful lot of problems lying beneath the town's impassive surface, but in doing so unleashes the pitch black heart of darkness that lies within this film's conclusion.

In terms of style, this is far away from the post-Argento iconography of the giallo. There are no black leather gloved killers here, no stalk and slash killings. All of the (physical) violence occurs off camera. But this remains one of the most claustrophobic, oppressive films of it's time. Much of the drama unfolds within the walls of the hotel, with flashbacks, fantasies and the present unfolding in this space. The film it feels most like is Renais' "Last year At marienbad", but with a more defined narrative. I suspect a lot of the time shifts come from co-screenwriter Gulio Questi, who would later return to the editing styles shown here in his own films such as "Django Kill... If you live, shoot!". Bazzoni contributes his unnerving eye for architecture as counterpoint and subtext to the story (he's on a par with Michael Mann in this respect).

This is a film about love, all types of love, from the casual to the obsessive, and the film gradually cranks up the tension until the conclusion. I hope that a wider audience will be able to embrance this with a DVD release from an outfit such as No Shame or Blue Underground. In the meantime, I'd advise anyone who cares about atmospheric horror/ thriller cinema to pick up the Spanish release, which can be had for a remarkable price (I paid €8.95).

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14 August 1965 (Italy) See more »

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