Brian De Palma has often been accused of ripping off Hitchcock, the director he most admired as a young man. Nowhere is this influence more apparant than in Obsession which is so heavily inspired by Vertigo as to be suspiciously familiar. Having said that, De Palma’s film is very entertaining in its own right and full of technical virtuosity that serves the story as well as being impressive on a purely aesthetic level.
On a technical level, the film is astonishingly well made. It’s here that De Palma really demonstrates his imaginative brilliance as a director. This was present in large portions of Sisters and Phantom of The Paradise, and even in his early work like the obscure Get To Know Your Rabbit and the underrated Hi Mom, but it flowers in Obsession into a signature style that he has been using ever since. Right from the start, where a tracking shot takes us inside the Courtland house and then picks out a waiter hiding a revolver, the camera rarely stops moving. De Palma made a conscious decision to cut as little as possible in order to acheive a flowing, dream like motion and this results in lots of medium length tracking shots, lots of rhythmic camera movements and a couple of truly extraordinary 360 degree pans which are very effective. The first is the best, as we are taken from 1959 to 1975 in one apparantly seamless shot which actually features an invisible cut that had to be pointed out to me and is explained in the documentary. The second, in Elizabeth’s bedroom, is incredibly emotional, serving the material rather than simply showing off the technique. We also get lots of crane shots, track/zooms which flare out with meaning, split focus effects and the interesting decision to use diffusion throughout the film but increase it for the scenes in the past. Just when you think nothing more can be packed into the visual scheme of the film, the last five minutes feature a great slow motion shot and a mad spin around an embrace, an image that De Palma uses again and again in his later films. – Mike Sutton, DVD Times