ga('create', 'UA-50779470-1', 'cinemanostalgia.net'); ga('send', 'pageview');
Without question, one of the weirdest films I have ever seen is Nicholas Roeg’s “Don’t Look Now” starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie as married couple John and Laura Baxter. Based on a Daphne DuMaurier story the movie has often been labeled as a horror or ghost story. To an extent one could agree, as it does have elements of horror, but I think “Don’t Look Now” is much more than that and frankly not quite so easy to label and place in a convenient, familiar category.
The film begins with a child (the Baxters’ pretty blonde daughter) wearing a shiny red macintosh as she plays near a pond in her backyard. Already the viewer begins to feel the unease and premonition of approaching danger that accompanies the entire film. John senses it too as he abruptly stops poring over some slides of an old church and runs outside to his backyard. He’s too late. His daughter has drowned in the pond while attempting to retrieve a toy ball. What follows is one of the most unforgettable scenes in cinema history as John sloshes into the water and pulls his dead child into his arms. Every parent’s worse nightmare is made palpable as we witness a father desperately try to revive his little girl and the harrowing despair at the realization that she is gone forever.
The rest of the movie now takes place in Venice, where John and Laura try to overcome their tragic loss and reconnect as a couple. John, an architect, has been commissioned with the restoration of a church. But even here the spookiness continues through the dark, labyrinthine streets of Venice. Adding to the unsettling atmosphere there is a serial killer loose in Venice and scenes of police dragging dead bodies out of the canals only heighten the tension and foreboding.
While in Venice the Baxters meet a pair of eccentric, middle-aged sisters (Hilary Mason and Clelia Matania), one of whom is blind but claims to have psychic abilities and communicates with the Baxter’s deceased daughter. She tells them that their little girl’s spirit is with them and that she’s happy but also warns her parents that they must leave Venice. Laura, naturally, wants to continue speaking with the sisters in order to be closer to her dead child but John thinks it’s all nonsense and fears what effect this may have on his wife’s state of mind. Interesting that John should be so skeptical as he too seems to have second sight. After all, it was he alone who felt the portent that his child was in danger and ran out of the house only to find her already drowned. It’s also John who catches glimpses of a shiny red raincoat that keeps disappearing around corners on the streets of Venice. Or is he just imagining it?
Water and the color red are recurring motifs from beginning to end in Don’t Look Now. The film is suffused with unrestrained symbolism and even the disorienting editing style which presents the viewer with seemingly disconnected events are all united in some mysterious, subconscious way. And of course, it’s the baffling, and horrific ending that leaves the viewer with dropped jaw and uncomprehending blinking eyes long after the end credits roll even though we were forewarned all along.
To watch Don’t Look Now online click the following link
or to own your own copy you can order it from Amazon.