Obsession (1976) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • 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 love with Sandra Portinari, who bears a striking resemblance to his wife.

  • Successful New Orleans businessman Michael Courtland's tenth wedding anniversary celebration ends tragically when his wife Elizabeth and their nine-year-old daughter, Amy, have been kidnapped. In an attempt to trap the criminals, counterfeit money is used to pay the ransom, but the plan backfires and his wife and child die in a car accident during a chase with the police. Ten years later while on a business trip in Italy with La Salle, his partner, Michael meets Sandra, a young woman who is an exact double of his wife. He falls in love with her and brings her back to Louisiana to get married. Michael's friends and business associates try to discourage his wedding plans; they realize that Michael is infatuated with Sandra only because she reminds him of his dead wife Elizabeth. On the eve of their wedding, she vanishes and Michael finds a ransom note - a duplicate of the one found ten years earlier.

  • New Orleans based land developer Michael Courtland still mourns the death of his wife Elizabeth Courtland and their adolescent daughter Amy Courtland sixteen years earlier in 1959 from a botched kidnapping. What's worse for Mike is that he feels guilty for the deaths and that the burned and drowned bodies of the two were never recovered, the only memorial he has for them being a scale model and empty mausoleum of the Florentine church where he and Elizabeth met, the mausoleum sitting on an expensive piece of property he now refuses to develop, much to the chagrin of his business partner, Bob LaSalle. On a business trip to Florence, Mike goes back to that church to find a woman who looks exactly like Elizabeth, she being Sandra Portinari, who is working on an art restoration project inside the church. Mike is immediately smitten with his wife's lookalike. Sandra, despite eventually learning why Mike is so smitten with her, still falls for him. The two decide to go back to New Orleans to get married. In New Orleans, Mike faces a sense of déjà vu of an incident sixteen years earlier. And Sandra, unknown to Mike, brings her own emotional baggage into their relationship.

  • In 1959, In New Orleans, the businessman Michael "Mike" Courtland celebrates the tenth wedding anniversary with his beloved wife Elizabeth with a party in his manor. Late night, Elizabeth and their daughter Amy are abducted and the kidnappers leave a note asking the ransom of US$ 500,000.00. However Mike calls the police but the rescue operation is a mess. When the criminals are pursued, there is a car crash and it explodes. Mike blames himself for the death of Elizabeth and Amy and builds a memorial in the location of the accident. In 1975, Mike travels with his partner Robert Lasalle to Florence in a business trip and when he goes to the church where he first met Elizabeth, he sees the worker Sandra Portinari that is working in the restoration of a painting of Madonna and is a dead ringer of Elizabeth. Mike becomes obsessed in Sandra and dates her. When Mike travels back to NOLA, he brings Sandra planning to marry her. However, Sandra is also kidnapped and Mike finds a ransom note identical to the one he received when Elizabeth was abducted. Now Mike believes that destiny has given a second chance to him and he does not want to blow it.

  • A wealthy New Orleans businessman becomes obsessed with a young woman who resembles his wife.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • In 1959, Michael Courtland (Cliff Robertson), a New Orleans real estate developer, has his life shattered when his wife Elizabeth (Geneviève Bujold) and young daughter Amy are kidnapped. The police strongly recommend that he provide the kidnappers with shredded blank paper instead of the demanded ransom, and he agrees to the plan. This leads to a bungled car chase in which both kidnappers and victims are killed in a spectacular explosion. Courtland blames himself for the deaths of his wife and daughter.

    15 Years later. Courtland is morbidly obsessed with his dead wife, and regularly visits a monument he has had built in her memory. The monument is a replica of the church (Basilica di San Miniato al Monte) where he and Elizabeth had met many years before in Florence, Italy. His real estate partner Robert LaSalle (John Lithgow) convinces Courtland to tag along on a business trip back to Florence. While there, Courtland revisits the church, and suddenly comes face to face with a young woman named Sandra (Bujold again in a dual role) who looks exactly like his late wife. The already slightly unhinged Courtland begins to court the young woman, and subtly attempts to transform her into a perfect mirror image of his dead wife.

    Courtland returns to New Orleans with Sandra so they can marry. On their wedding night, Sandra is kidnapped and a ransom note is left behind by her abductors. It is an exact replica of the kidnappers' message from fifteen years before. This time, Courtland decides to deliver the demanded cash. He withdraws massive quantities of money from his accounts and business holdings, financially ruining him and forcing him to sign over his interest in the real estate business to LaSalle. In the process, he discovers that his entire ordeal, including the original kidnapping, had been engineered by LaSalle as a way to gain sole control of Courtland's company share holdings. The now nearly insane Courtland stabs LaSalle to death.

    Knowing that Sandra must have been a willing accomplice in the plot against him, he goes to the airport to kill the escaping woman. On the plane, Sandra has a flashback to her part in the scheme; she is in fact Courtland's daughter, allowed by LaSalle to survive the explosive traffic "accident" from years before that had killed her mother. LaSalle had told her lies about Courtland over the years, convincing her that her father had not paid the ransom because he didn't love her. Sandra, who now loves Courtland, attempts suicide on the plane and is taken off the flight in a wheelchair. Courtland sees her and runs toward her, gun drawn. A security guard attempts to stop him but Courtland smashes the briefcase full of money against the guard's head, knocking him unconscious. The briefcase breaks open and all of the money flies out. Sandra, seeing the fluttering bills, stands up and shouts: "Daddy! You brought the money!" Courtland now realizes for the first time who Sandra really is, and father and daughter fall into a deep embrace.

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