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Obsession

Obsession

By Patrick Samuel • June 6th, 2012
Static Mass Rating: 5/5
OBSESSION (MOVIE)
Columbia Pictures

Original release: August 1st 1976
Running time: 98 minutes

Director: Brian de Palma
Writer: Paul Schrader

Cast: Cliff Robertson, Genevieve Bujold, John Lithgow, Sylvia Kuumba Williams, Wanda Blackman

An obsession is usually defined as an idea or thought that continually preoccupies a person’s mind. I admit, over the years I’ve had a few but I’d describe them more as passions that inspire me. Most of us have them, and usually there’s nothing wrong with that.

For some people though, an obsession does more than just occupy their mind. It dominates their lives and blinds them to everything else. They become a risk to themselves and others in the pursuit to perfect the idea they’ve become obsessed with.

This is where Brian de Palma’s classic thriller takes us. We first meet Michael Courtland (Cliff Robertson), a New Orleans real estate developer, in 1959. He’s a man who has everything; a successful business, a lavish home, a beautiful wife and 9-year old daughter whom he dotes on.

Obsession

Things have a way of changing though, whether we want them to or not. When his wife and daughter are kidnapped, the police suggest that Michael delivers them shredded paper instead of the $500,000 ransom they demand.

When the kidnappers panic, they make a dash for it with their hostages in tow, but a car chase leads to an accident and Michael loses his family in a fiery explosion and a watery grave.

The story then moves ahead to 1976 but Michael hasn’t moved on and the tragedy still haunts him, so much so that when he meets Sandra (Geneviève Bujold) he’s more than a little curious about the woman who could be the doppelganger for his dead wife. He becomes obsessed and tries to mould Sandra into the void left by his wife. An uneasy romance develops between them and Michael thinks he’s been given a second chance, but then things change again.

The unthinkable happens. Sandra is kidnapped and a ransom note is left, again for the sum of $500,000. It’s an all too familiar setting for Michael, but the pieces in the puzzle start to come together, Obessionrevealing the horrifying truth of what really happened back in 1959.

Obsession is a love letter to the films of Alfred Hitchcock, so much so that it seems obsessed with the father of horror and suspense.

There are nods throughout to Vertigo (1958), Dial M For Murder (1954) and even Notorious (1946), but it’s filmed in such a sumptuous manner that we forget these homage’s and linger in the dreamlike atmosphere De Palma creates.

Tension builds as the melodrama in Michael and Sandra’s relationship gives way to something more disturbing than what first appears. At times we’re not sure who’s obsessed with who, but it’s safe to say it’s a story that travels full circle as it reaches a horrifying conclusion.

Obsession remains a very seductive piece of cinema. Its mise en scène and bold style of acting, together with its direction and score, make it’s a masterpiece and a reminder of storytelling at its best.

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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