review for Ossessione on AllMovie

Ossessione (1943)
by Lucia Bozzola review

Luchino Visconti's directorial debut presaged the postwar emergence of Italian neorealism, one of the most significant film movements of the 20th century. Transposing James M. Cain's novel The Postman Always Rings Twice to Fascist Italy, Visconti embedded the melodramatic tale of sexual obsession and murder in the gritty, provincial environments of Ancona and Ferrara. Influenced by the work of Jean Renoir, Visconti keeps his camera at a distance, except in key emotional moments, and uses mobile long takes to relate the characters to their locations, revealing how their squalid existences and fear of omnipresent poverty can provoke tragedy. Although Ossessione did not manifest neorealism's later concerns with war experiences and social problems, Visconti's location shooting and attention to the realistic details of everyday life among the working class became hallmarks of the movement's drive to depict the lives of ordinary people at the mercy of their surroundings. Shocked by its harshness, Italian censors banned the finished film, which was then briefly released in a drastically edited version. Although Visconti reconstructed the film after the war, copyright violations prevented its being seen outside Italy until the mid-'70s. While it did not have an immediate impact with the public, Ossessione still paved the way for Italian filmmakers to pursue a different aesthetic, rendering it a pivotal work in Italian film history.