I wasn’t going to write about this movie since it turned out to not really have anything to do with houses or even ghosts. It’s another one that I’m not entirely sure how it ended up on my list for the month. But a lot of people have recommended it, I love Nicolas Roeg, and after all of the movies featuring dead children, this one seems to fit in more than I initially thought.
Don’t Look Now – UK, 1973. Dir. Nicolas Roeg, Screenplay Allan Scott & Chris Bryant. Starring Julie Christie, Donald Southerland.
I feel like in so many of the movies I’ve watched this month, a central theme has been grief over the loss of a loved one, usually a child. The Changeling, A Tale of Two Sisters, House, The Devil’s Backbone, The Orphanage, Stir of Echoes. And those are just the movies I’ve written about so far, that’s not counting the ones I have yet to get to.
Don’t Look Now is no different. It’s about parents Laura and John who suffer the unimaginable loss of their young daughter. In an attempt to cope, they travel to Italy for John’s work – the restoration of a church. Shortly after their arrival, Laura makes the acquaintance of a pair of elderly sisters, one of whom is psychic and claims to have seen the spirit of their daughter. Laura wants to believe but as their grief and suspicion build, John and Laura struggle with what is real and what is imagined, what they wish for and what threatens to destroy them completely.
Much of Don’t Look Now is focused on their relationship and how they are coping. It’s hard but it’s also poignant. They both ache with their loss but in ways it seems to almost bring them closer, rather than tear them apart as grief so often can.
Through the course of the story they are faced with mysteries but not really ghosts. The supernatural element in Don’t Look Know is more in visions and premonitions. And the things that John realizes only when it’s too late.
The story is set against the backdrop of Venice: the canals, the gloomy Italian winter, the neglected church and the nearly empty hotel. It seems as if John and Laura are frequently alone in the vast maze that is Venice. Sometimes it’s overwhelming, sometimes claustrophobic. By the end, the winding streets, their twists and turns, become central to the story. There’s no haunted house here, true, instead there’s an entire haunted city.
Of course, Don’t Look Now is not just one of the best in British cinema (yeah, I said it), it’s also notorious for Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie’s sex scene. There is, um, some speculation as to whether or not they were just acting. Or, you know, actually going for it.
I’ll let you watch and decide for yourself.
It’s actually a great scene. In a movie full of great scenes. I really, really liked this one. It’s also one that I would definitely watch again. There’s just so much happening, so many things to absorb, it’s one worth revisiting.
Nicolas Roeg continues to be amazing. I may be biased because he’s one of my favorites. Though really he’s one of my favorites because he’s amazing. So yeah. That.
Don’t Look Now. Check it out.