Saturday, 31 December 2011

Don't Look Now (1973)

Fig. 1
Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now is a gripping psycho thriller that creates confusion and unexplainable and unbareable tension. The film is meant to annoy and intrigue the audience with its slow pace scenes where the tension builds to nothing. The sound throughout seems muffled and in quite a few scenes the speech is in Italian, this leads the audience into an absolute confusion alongside an uncanny world of narrow Venice streets, cold churches and drab hotel rooms. The plot follows a young couple who move to Venice after the loss of their daughter. Whilst in Venice, two elderly sisters speak to Christine (Julie Christie), one being blind says she can see their daughter sitting in between the couple. This leads to a series of haunting occurrences and ultimately leads to the death of John. Through the film there are several subtle references to what is going to happen, for instance John's premonition - seeing his wife and the two elderly sisters dressed in black heading back to Venice.  

Fig. 2
The scene where the daughter drowns is epically emotive, the scenes pace slowly leads the audience into the heartache the family is about to suffer. The red coat of the girl is shockingly bright and immediately grabs the audience. Adam Smith states, "Few films can as efficiently induce an attack of the screaming heebie-jeebies as Nicolas Roeg's classic supernatural thriller. Based on a Daphne du Maurier short story and made in 1973, it's one of the most haunting, enigmatic and, in the final moments, bloodily shocking movies ever made - and it showcases, in Roeg, one of Britain's most distinctive voices . . ." (Smith 2001) Smith praises the narrative, as well as the film itself. As the book behind the film is already chilling, the adaptation just emphasises the the uncanny quality.

The montage of scenes at the end of the film is particularly emotive and powerful in the way it ties the narrative, which is representational of the mosaic John (Donald Sutherland) is trying to piece together. The colour red and the element water are recurring motifs throughout the film, these are prominent to the audience within the majority of scenes - red, the warning of danger and water a constant reminder of the couple's loss. David Wood suggests, "Effective enough as a chiller in its own right, with Roeg of course it all goes so much deeper, acting as a labyrinthine but none the less moving and perceptive mediation on loss, love, and the indefinable nature of time itself. As if piecing together an intricate puzzle, key motifs constantly recur: the colour red, shattered glass, water, until their ultimate meaning is finally revealed to horrifying effect." (Wood 2001) Wood portrays Roeg's creation perfectly, explaining the film is pieced together in order to subtly reveal vital clues within the plot and in doing so creates this creepy atmosphere which puzzles its audience.

Fig. 3
The shots within the film are all created in a specific way to create enigmatic scenes. The close-ups of the glass breaking, the water ripples, the bright red blood etc all bring the sense of the uncanny. Roger Ebert observes, "He's [Roeg] a former cinematographer, and a genius at filling his frame with threatening forms and compositions. He uses Venice as well as she's ever been used in a movie; he shot there in late fall and an early, dark, wet winter." (Ebert 1973) Ebert takes note of Roeg's chilling and disturbing editing and shots. He praises the effectiveness of the atmosphere created.

List of illustrations

Figure 1. Roeg, Nicolas (1973) Don't Look Now Movie Poster. At: (Accessed on:3/12/11)

Figure 2. Roeg, Nicolas (1973) 'John Baxtor' realisation that his child is dead. At: (Accessed on:3/12/11)

Figure 3. Roeg, Nicolas (1973) John's Premonition. At: (Accessed on:3/12/11)


Empire Adam Smith (2001) Don't Look Now. At: (Accessed on:3/12/11)

BBC David Wood (2001) Don't Look Now (1973). At: (Accessed on:3/12/11)

Roger Ebert (1973) Don't Look Now. At: (Accessed on:3/12/11)

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