Shortly after the death of their child, John and Laura (Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie) are called to Venice by John’s work where he is overseeing the restoration of a church. The dark avenues and lapping water set the scene for a truly unnerving and evocative film, as the couple are haunted by the memories and the guilt surrounding their little girl’s death. Although Don’t Look Now keeps its traditional ‘scare moments’ few and far between, and for that reason is far more effective, it is the film’s atmosphere which is most remarkable and scary. It caught me out, it seemed so subtle at first, but once the couple are in Venice a feeling of dread and horror builds and builds until you really don’t quite know what to expect, and you feel that you can’t even understand exactly what you are watching. The film’s focus is on its characters, and that’s great, but there are few films which utilise their setting as well as Don’t Look Now does.
Aside from the two performances given and the atmosphere created, it’s the editing that’s also particularly praiseworthy. It’s not only used and controlled very well, but it’s also part of the film’s narrative. I would even argue it’s an important plot device, but some may disagree. Regardless, Roeg supposedly regarded Don’t Look Now as his exercise in film grammar and that really shows; every detail whether it is the use of sound, colour motifs, or recurring images, they are all worked for their maximum potential and contribute significantly to the film’s effectiveness.
Although arguably still most famous for its sex scene, there is a lot more to this film than the question of whether the actors did it for real. I wasn’t that taken with the film at first, but towards the end I started to really get involved with it, and afterwards it haunted me and I couldn’t quite shake it out of my head. One re-watch a couple of days later and I had become quite the fan. If you haven’t seen this then I strongly recommend that you get hold of it soon. It’s arguably a little dated in places, but in others it’s still razor sharp and it doesn’t really suffer from its age overall. It’s a film that’s a little different to your average horror film, but if you go in expecting a focus on characters and are aware that it isn’t a slasher, then I can’t imagine you would regret spending your time with this one.
Tap out a comment below and let me know what you think!