There's No Obsession Without Hitchcock

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Director Brian De Palma is a huge Hitchcock fan, and it shows with 1976’s Obsession. But let’s start at the beginning…

When learning the craft of directing, De Palma turned to the Master of Suspense for lessons.

He said, “…I decided I wanted to start learning how to tell stories with pictures. So, of course, Hitchcock is the great master of that, and I saw a lot of his movies and began to use some of his story ideas and techniques in order to learn how to do that.”

De Palma compares Hitchcock’s technique to “grammar,” illustrating its essential function to the cinematic sentence.

“He is the one who distilled the essence of film,” De Palma said.

Hitch’s influence is incredibly apparent in Obsession, as shown below…

1. Vertigo!

Obsession’s plot closely echoes that of Vertigo. In both stories, broken men discover women who remind them of their past and in actuality are tied to it (though they’re playing innocent). Kim Novak’s and Geneviève Bujold’s characters also write tell-all letters confessing to their ruses. Vertigo was an especially meaningful film for De Palma. He said, “…it had an incredible impression on me way before I was interested in making movies. And there was something about the way the story was told and the cinematic language used in it that connected to me…”

2. Dial M for Murder!

Obsession, like Dial M for Murder, features a murder-by-scissors moment. In both films, the leads struggle with their would-be killer before grabbing scissors in the nick of time to save their own lives.

3. Bernard Herrmann!

The musical swells of Obsessions stop just short of being too similar to Vertigo. It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise then that Bernard Herrmann wrote both scores. In fact, he wrote music for several of Hitch’s projects, including North by Northwest, Psycho, The Birds, Marnie, The Man Who Knew Too Much, The Trouble with Harry, Torn Curtain, The Wrong Man, and episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. Speaking about the director, Herrmann said, “He was also a man of great musical culture.”