Don't Look Now

02/21/2019 07:49

Film: Don’t Look Now

Year: 1973

Director: Nicolas Roeg

Writer: Allan Scott and Chris Bryant

Starring: Julie Christie, Donald Sutherland and Hilary Mason



This was a film I heard about on podcasts I listen to and it intrigued me. The 1970’s are an era where there are a lot of blank spots in my viewing history and from what I gathered; this film is one of the bests. I’ve now given this a rewatch as part of my Traverse through the Threes. I’m also much more versed in horror cinema as well.

Synopsis: a married couple, grieving the recent death of their young daughter, is in Venice when they encounter two elderly sisters, one of whom is psychic and brings a warning from beyond.

We kick this off with a young girl playing outside in a red raincoat. She is Christine Baxter (Sharon Williams). Inside are her parents, Laura (Julie Christie) and John (Donald Sutherland. They’re both quite intelligent from the conversation they’re having and we see that John restores old churches. There’s a slide he is looking at that water spills on. It creates a red smudge. Something catches his attention and he knows there’s something wrong outside. We also meet Johnny (Nicholas Salter), their other child. John finds their daughter in the water and has drowned. He tries to save her to no avail.

The film then shifts to Venice, like the synopsis states. John is restoring a church and we learn that he isn’t overly happy. He doesn’t think it is as old as he thought. He meets his wife for lunch and we see that their relationship is a bit off. He doesn’t seem to be paying attention to her. He goes to open a window and dirt gets into the eye of Wendy (Clelia Matania). Her blind sister, Heather (Hilary Mason), tries to help, but can’t. Laura decides to show them to the bathroom. Laura learns Heather is psychic. She states that Christine is sitting between her and her husband and the little girl is happy.

Laura must sit down to gather herself before returning to John. She then passes out. She is taken to the hospital. When she comes to, she is much happier after talking with the two sisters. John doesn’t believe what they are saying. He tries to keep his wife away from them. All the while, there is a murderer in Venice and someone who is wearing a coat that is a similar height to Christine. How does this all fit together?

That is where I’ll leave my recap and introduction to the characters. Where I want to start is that I knew this couple was dealing with loss, so I’ll start there. They are handling it in different ways. John buries himself in his work while Laura is trying to move on. It isn’t until she believes that the two sisters are telling her things they couldn’t know that she starts to be happier. There is a long sex scene between the couple, but it is edited in way that shows them getting ready to go out to dinner. I took this as they are starting to move on with their lives finally, even though John doesn’t believe them. What is interesting as well, they have another child that they seem to be neglecting having him away at school.

Going from this, Heather admits that she normally cannot summon the dead. She does try and ends up having some kind of seizure from it. I wonder how much of the events that happen wouldn’t if she doesn’t come into the lives of John and Laura. There is also the interesting angle that John might be psychic as well, but he ignores his abilities.

There is also this other aspect that I found interesting with this murderer that is a subplot. I heard a podcast say that no matter how many times he sees this film, he forgets about that part of the story. I must admit, I went in looking for it both times, but I forget about it in stretches as well. I find this interesting though because it is important to the conclusion. The title of the film ties in with this for sure.

Now I’m going to warn you, this film is a slow-burn. Interesting though, the tension builds along with the story despite that deliberate pace. I found myself trying to figure things out as they are happening. I originally thought there were parts that could be trimmed. Upon completing this a second time around. I don’t think that there are. I didn’t even notice the runtime of this watch.

Part of what I get lost in is how good the acting is. Christie is great as the mother who is grieving, but doing a great job of hiding it. She doesn’t have a job from what I gather, but she is intelligent. She also is in a strange country while not knowing the language and her other child is in school away from her. Sutherland is also great. He buries himself in his work. We see that when he thinks the church isn’t what he thought, he is disappointed, like he needs it to be great. Some crazy things happen to him that I found to be interesting. I thought Mason and Matania were solid as the two sisters. The rest of the cast were solid and round out the film for what was needed in building the tension and story.

All that is left is filmmaking. There are much in the way of effects. It also doesn’t need them. We do get a little bit of blood, which looked a bit orange, but you see that a lot for the era and I love it. There are a couple of scenes though that ramp up the tension with putting John in peril. I will also credit the cinematography. This has an arthouse feel with how beautiful it is shot. Other than that, the soundtrack fit what was needed. It was done by Pino Donaggio. Not his best score, but what he does is good.

In conclusion, after my first watch it was an interesting one. There is a story here that isn’t new, but something that is quite sad and realistic. I like seeing how these people are dealing with the death of a child. It is different and heartbreaking. We get Laura befriending this blind woman to help her with closure. The film is a slow-burn, so keep that in mind. It is carried though by great acting. The score is solid and even though there’s not a lot in the way of effects, the ones we do get are good. The cinematography is also beautiful. I’m glad that I came back to this one as I appreciate it even more. I’d recommend to those that are fans of the era. There is even a giallo feel without necessarily being one too if that helps sway you.


My Rating: 8.5 out of 10