Sergio (Richard Johnson) is a playboy who jumps from one woman to another. As soon as one begins to get serious he is off to the next. For the last month he has noticed an older woman that he thinks may be stalking him. While trying to seduce his next victim he sees the old woman again at a newspaper stand. By the time he gets to the stand the woman has gotten in a taxi and is gone. He asks the man running the stand about her. He says she was looking at the last page of a newspaper. Buying the paper he scans the last page and sees a job posting. The job is for someone to catalogue manuscripts in a private library. Specifically someone that has knowledge of Spanish, English and Arabic who was born in Rome with American parents. The add looks exactly tailored for him. Now curious Sergio goes to the address and meets Consuelo (Sarah Ferrati).
Consuelo lives in an old decrepit castle that is in the middle of Rome. Consuelo herself is a strange woman. The manuscripts are erotic tales that her husband wrote. Her husband is now dead and his embalmed body is in the castle chapel. Sergio’s interest was in just finding out about Consuelo so taking the job was not on his list, at least until he meets Consuelo’s daughter Aura (Rosanna Schiaffino). Sergio becomes bewitched by the beautiful young woman.
Fabrizio (Gian Maria Volonte) is the current librarian. Consuelo wants him to leave but she says he won’t. Fabrizio is obsessed with Aura and slightly off center. He is both abusive and submissive. Aura says she hates him but does whatever he says. It’s as if she responds to whoever she is with at the time. Fabrizio wants Sergio to leave and Sergio wants Fabrizio to leave. The two come to blows and Sergio ends up killing Fabrizio. Consuelo refuses to let Sergio call the police. She tells him that she will not tell them that Sergio killed Fabrizio in self defense. She manages to talk him into disposing of Sergio’s body so that he can’t be identified.
Sergio is now fully engulfed in the strange dynamic between Consuelo and Aura. He then learns that not only is Aura not Consuelo’s daughter she isn’t even real at all.
“The Witch” AKA “La strega in amore” AKA “The Witch in Love” AKA “Strange Obsession” was released in 1966 and was directed by Damiano Damian. It is an Italian horror drama and was based on the novel “Aura” by Carlos Fuentes.
The film is a strange combination of erotic nightmare and dramatic ghost story. Some have described it as Kafkaesque and that could be the closest description that fits. It is very artistic and very slow going for a long time. The film is an hour and fifty minutes long and it takes most of that to get to where you have a sense of what is really happening and to a point where anything is happening. You need to have a lot of patience with it. I had some mixed feelings about the movie. I liked it and I like the ending I just had a hard time getting through the hour and whatever minutes needed to get to the end.
What helps a lot is the acting. There aren’t a lot of characters and most of the time it is the four main characters that live in the castle. All four though do a wonderful job of showing all their character’s facets and foibles. The atmosphere is also interesting. It is claustrophobic and surreal. The library is a dusty disintegrating ruin that is supposed to be full of erotic prose. It mirrors what Sergio’s life has become trapped in his obsession for Aura and his hatred to Consuelo. It is the kind of power that witches were said to possess and use on mortals.