Brunello Rondi is something of an anomaly in Italian cinema. With this, his debut film, he shocked critics and audiences at the Venice Film Festival. Not many were able to understand that the film would be a forerunner to more than one future cinematic trend. It didn’t receive the appreciation it deserved at home, but was greeted by enthusiasm abroad. Il demonio was not intended as a scientific study, although Ernesto De Martino, the father of Italian ethnology, was a consultant on the film. The director stated that it was a story about neurosis and sex, irrational desires that rebel against convention, and the destabilising power of amour fou. “A magical and unsettling film, with shocking eroticism”, wrote French critic Jean-Louis Comolli. Daliah Lavi is primitive, wild and unforgettable.
In a small town in Lucania, Southern Italy, a young woman named Purificazione casts a spell on the man she loves, Antonio, so that he may fall in love with her. It doesn’t work, and when he marries another woman she casts the evil eye on him. She becomes hysterical and is taken to a witchdoctor who rapes her. She is brought to the church and an exorcism is performed on her, but it has no effect. Antonio believes she is cursed and encourages the townspeople to lynch her. She escapes, but Antonio catches up with her, makes love to her, and the following morning kills her.