Saturday, May 30, 2015
Brunello Rondi, best known for his contributions to Fellini scripts (La Dolce Vita, 8½), makes his sophomore directorial effort with this profoundly unnerving treatise on compulsion and superstition. In a southern mountain village mired in religious fanaticism, peasant girl Purificazione (Daliah Lavi) loves Antonio (Frank Wolff) obsessively. When he chooses to marry someone else, she visits a curse upon him, inciting the townspeople to believe she’s a witch possessed by the devil. The film is a clear forerunner to The Exorcist (a crazed Lavi performs the infamous “spider walk” a decade before Linda Blair), but Rondi leaves us to decide if she’s bedeviled by supernatural forces or mental illness. Lavi’s delirious performance is abetted by Carlo Bellero’s stunning black-and-white photography.