Possessed is directed by Curtis Bernhardt and adapted to screenplay by Silvia Richards and Ranald MacDougall from a story by Rita Weiman. It stars Joan Crawford, Van Heflin, Raynond Massey and Geraldine Brooks. Music is by Franz Waxman and cinematography by Joseph Valentine.
After wandering around the streets of Los Angeles in a daze, Louise Howell (Crawford) collapses in a diner and admitted to hospital. From there, prompted under medication, she begins to reveal a rather sad story...
Film begins with quite a kick, a dazed looking Crawford, stripped of make-up, wanders around a ghostly looking Los Angeles uttering the name David. Once she enters the hospital, we switch to flashback mode and the makers unfurl a noir tale of mental illness, oneirism, hopeless love and death. German director Bernhardt (Conflict/High Wall) and his cinematographer Valentine (Shadow of a Doubt/Sleep, My Love) deal in expressionistic methods to enhance the story. Light and shadows often marry up to Louise's fractured state of mind, motif association flits in and out of the plotting and there's some striking imagery used; such as a body dragged from a lake and Louise framed in a rain speckled window.
The lines of reality are impressively blurred, ensuring the viewers remain in a state of not ever being sure of what is real. There's a deft disorientation about the production, where fatalism looms large and sadness is all too evident in our troubled femme protagonist. Principal cast performances are of a high standard, with Crawford (Academy Award Nominated) leading the way with one of those wide eyed turns that perfectly treads the thin line between fraught and tender. While laid over the top is a score from Waxman that emphasises the key segments of poor Louise's mental disintegration. But what of the story in itself? The rhyme or reason for such murky melodramatics dressed up neatly in noir clobber?
Story is pretty much wrapped around the notion that a romantic obsession sends Louise Howell on the downward spiral. Since we know next to nothing about the relationship between Louise and David Sutton (Heflin), or why Sutton is the sly and antagonistic way he is, it's a big hole in character formation. As is the death of Dean Graham's (Massey) wife, or in fact the sudden shift of Dean Graham becoming husband to one Louise Howell. The film looks terrific on a noir level, and Crawford engrosses greatly from start to finish, but it only seems to exist for these two reasons, all else is on the outer edges of the frame looking in. A shame because there is much to like and be involved with here. 7.5/10