Don’t Look Now (Nicolas Roeg, 1973)

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Leading up to Halloween I’ll be hashing out some of my favorite horror films ranging from shlocko B-horror to luminous, elegant & eerie Gothic masterpieces, mainly focusing on those that may not have such prominence in pop culture consciousness as, say, Halloween does. Hope you enjoy! Feel free to leave your own recommendations in the comments.

While it’s more a drama than a straight-up scary flick, Roeg’s supernaturally tinged tale of a married couple mourning the loss of their daughter encroaches quietly with such an ominous foreboding atmosphere  that the terrifying coup-de-grace of an ending just about does one in; it out-horrors most horror films in terms of mood and shock.  The setting is Venice- but not at all a Venice usually shown on film; it is a deserted, shuttered city on the brink of winter, shrouded in grisaille, silent but for the lapping of water on the cold, ancient stone.  The parents, played with dignity by Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie, relocate for a restoration project to Venice after the drowning death of their daughter, Christine.  In their new setting water is pervasive, always there to reflect the glimmers of associative memories of the young girl slipping beneath the surface of their homestead pond in her carmine red slicker.  One day, the specter that hangs over the grieving couple materializes into tangible form in the eyes of a blind clairvoyant and her sister, who share a vision of a laughing girl in red with the wife.  She finds excitement, happiness in this sight, and feels alive and at peace after many months of a gnawing dull emptiness.  Rational Sutherland greets it first with a heavy-hearted skepticism but then with suspicion as his wife takes to spending more time with the women, and thus the film winds forward as he feels a mounting unease which he cannot understand, unease about his safety, the clairvoyant women, and the constant flashes of a figure in a carmine raincoat he sees just out of the corner of his eye.

Nicolas Roeg was a cinematographer before he began directing films, and his images and editing show an impressive personal style that for another narrative would be somewhat heavy, but fits this story perfectly, poignantly.  It’s quite a feat of filmmaking, and will fill you with dread and horror like the best of ’em.

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3 Responses to “Don’t Look Now (Nicolas Roeg, 1973)”

  1. dumbricht Says:

    The quick hits

    1) I have never shaken the beginning or the end since my first viewing, especially the end.

    2) I don’t think I was a Dad when I saw it. Don’t know if I could watch it again.

    3) I love that we live in a world where Donald Sutherland (and Elliot Gould) were once sex symbols.

    4) Julie Christie

  2. Christopher Says:

    I’ll need to check this one out. Big fan of Roeg’s Walkabout and The Man Who Fell To Earth.

  3. Miss Q Says:

    Don’t Look Now is bookended by two truly painful, heartstopping scenes. I can’t imagine what hearing Sutherland’s anguished, animalistic cry in the beginning would do to me if I were a parent. I understand if you never have the will to pop it in the ol’ player again..!

    Chris, if you’re already a fan of Roeg’s style then you will LOVE this. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on it.

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