This film is recommended for anyone who wants to feel like they’re on the verge of something – good or bad
Director Nicolas Roeg
Screenplay Allan Scott, Chris Bryant based on the story by Daphne du Maurier
Starring Julie Christie, Donald Sutherland, Hilary Mason, Clelia Matinia
Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now is a study of mood, as much as anything. Starting off with the death of their daughter at their English country home, John and Laura Baxter (Sutherland and Christie) have resumed living in Venice while he leads the restoration of an old church.
While dining at a restaurant, they encounter two old sisters, Heather (Mason) and Wendy (Matinia). Laurais faints after being told by the sisters that Heather, who is blind, is psychic and she sees their daughter between the couple. This sparks a rejuvenation with Laura, who feels a sense of relief. Immediately this rekindles the Baxter’s marriage.
The next day, Laura meets with the sisters, who inform her that they sense her husband has second sight. They want to meet with him, he refuses. Laura goes back to the sisters and they hold a seance. At this point, a strange things begin to happen. John is perpetually seeing visions that alternate between the past, present and perhaps the future.
Roeg intentionally makes communication a challenge in Don’t Look Now. There is no translation of Italian, and it helps the viewer understand the confusion that John in particular must feel wandering through life after the tragic loss of his daughter. There is a divergence in the approach that John and Laura want to take in dealing with their emotions after the loss. Laura is open to new forms of communication. John sees nothing beyond her death.
Meanwhile, there are a string of murders happening throughout Venice. When Laura rushes back to England after their son takes a fall, John thinks that he sees his wife and the two sisters later that day on a funeral barge. He goes to the police to report his wife missing and becomes a suspect in the murders.
The director splices time in a way that leads one to be curious if this is in John’s mind, or is it reality moving around him. The end result leads the protagonist to some strange decisions. Sutherland is perfect as someone who looks like he could be a creeper himself, or could be supremely freaked out by what is happening around him. His acting had reached the point of precision to where even seemingly wasted actions have a purpose. We just don’t know whose purpose they serve.
Don’t Look Now is one of the few really good thrillers of the time. The things one can hold against it like the editing, could be said about all movies of its time. Roeg certainly has a point to his work, and the point becomes clear with the climax of the story.
If you aren’t exactly enthralled by the film, it will move you. Venice is used to wonderful effect and the sisters, as disconcerting as they appear at times, are one of the great vehicles for a plot in that time
This film is recommended for anyone who wants to feel like they’re on the verge of something – good or bad. The breath of anticipation whirls through the scenery, like the fog that whisps through the night as characters march their way in circles, lost to themselves and to each other.