Introduced by Professor Alessandro Carrera, University of Houston

Luchino Visconti’s raw Neorealist debut is a loose, sexy adaptation of James M. Cain’s 1934 crime novel The Postman Always Rings Twice. In Obsession, the chiseled Massimo Girotti is a penniless drifter who breezes into the trattoria of unhappily married Clara Calamai, setting the stage for a torrid saga of lust, murder, and betrayal.

Film critic Emanuel Levy explains that Obsession is “ostensibly a drama about the destructive powers of sexual passion and betrayal, but its realistic depiction of the proletariat life under fascism enraged the authorities, which mutilated the film. Obsession heralded the Italian Neorealist movement in its naturalistic setting and earthy texture, three years before Roberto Rossellini made his Neorealist masterpiece Roma, Open City. For many years, Western critics couldn’t see Obsession and thus considered Roma, Open City as the first major work of the worldwide influential Italian movement Neorealitsic cinema. Textbooks had to be changed in the wake of discovering Obsession.” Three years later, Lana Turner and John Garfield starred in Hollywood’s The Postman Always Rings Twice.

Obsession “occupies a pivotal position in the history of Italian cinema.” —film scholar Peter Bondanella 

• Read an article about Obsession and Italian Neorealism.

• See a feminist comparison of Obsession and The Postman Always Rings Twice.

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Luchino Visconti
Italian with English subtitles
Running Time
140 minutes
Digital, B/W