Directed by Nicolas Roeg
Screenplay by Allan Scott, Chris Bryant
Starring Donald Sutherland, Julie Christie
Don’t Look Now is an incredibly atmospheric horror adapted from a Daphne Du Maurier short story. It provides a very realistic overview of the various stages of grief as a couple tries to deal with the tragic death of their daughter in very separate ways, all the while demonstrating how such raw feelings can skew the mind and completely disrupt all aspects of everyday living.
The film begins with Laura and John’s daughter, Christine, dying in a freak accident. The couple move from England to Venice as a result where John works as an architect to restore a church. They’re trying to form some semblance of a life there and rediscover their relationship, but only a very thin veil of normalcy conceals their devastation and everything they do feels delicate, as though they could easily slip into hysteria or madness if they allow themselves. They are just going through the motions, just about holding it together.
The plot centres on Laura meeting Heather and Wendy, two sisters vacationing in Venice. Heather is blind and claims to be a psychic. She tells Laura that she has seen Christine and describes her in perfect detail but, although Laura believes her completely, David is more than a little sceptical. From this point David and Laura’s efforts to move on from the tragedy begin to crumble as they are continuously reminded of the event, which causes a series of paranoid, paranormal events that reveal the true impact of their daughter’s death.
Don’t Look Now is incredibly artistic, beautifully shot and indisputably iconic. The narrative is a little confusing and is suggestive rather than a tangible, consecutive sequence of events, which I found refreshing rather than frustrating as you get a real sense of the conflicting, scattered emotions of Laura and John’s grief. Because it’s never quite outlined what’s going on or what’s going to happen it adds an incredibly sinister undertone and I found the final scene horrifying after so much tension and suspense.
The acting is exceptional in this and I was gripped by both leading actors. Certain scenes felt a little dated but it made the film feel more surreal in a way. I really can’t imagine how Du Maurier’s short story would read – the main appeal of this film is that it’s so visual, and it’s the setting that seems to tell more of the story than the characters.
This isn’t an out and out horror but it’s eerie, creepy and unbelievably tense. I think it may go over some younger viewer’s heads as the pace and delivery of the plot is so completely alien to modern film. However, if you like to watch a movie over and over in order to get something different from it every time, Don’t Look Now will more than deliver.