Don’t Look Now-1973
Starring-Julie Christie, Donald Sutherland
Scott’s Review #693
Reviewed October 22, 2017
Don’t Look Now is an exceptional 1973 supernatural horror film that is as thought provoking as it is intelligently written and directed. Combined with riveting acting by famous Hollywood stars of the day, the film is simply an anomaly and must be seen to be appreciated. It is also the type of film that can be watched again and again for better clarity and exhibits the age old “it gets better with age” comparison. The film is rich with story, atmosphere, and cerebral elements, as well as being highly influential to horror films which followed.
Affluent married couple, John and Laura Baxter (Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie), live happily together in their English country home, raising their two children, Johnny and Christine. After a tragic drowning incident, resulting in the death of Christine, the devastated couple relocates to Venice, after John accepts a position restoring an ancient church. Soon, Laura meets a pair of elderly sisters, one of whom is blind and claims to be clairvoyant, warning her of imminent danger and that Christine is attempting to contact her from beyond.
Don’t Look Now is hardly your standard horror film, which is a main part of its appeal- psychological in nature, the film holds only one gruesome death- not including the death of Christina, which is a terrible accident- not malicious. Rather, director Nicolas Roeg quietly builds the suspense to a startling final sequence by using a chilling musical score to elicit a reaction from the audience. We know not what will happen, only that something sinister is bound to.
Due to the successful chemistry between Sutherland and Christie, in 1973, both cream of the crop in terms of film success and marketability, the actors deserve much credit for making Don’t Look Now both believable and empathetic. As John and Laura, each gives their character a likable nature and immeasurable chemistry, which makes the audience care for them. Despite the supernatural elements in the film, at its core the story is quite humanistic. John and Laura have tragically lost a child and we see them deal with the painful grief associated with this loss. The famous sex scene between the pair is shocking given the time period, but also tastefully done, as Roeg uses a fragmented filming style that mixes the nudity with the couple dressing for dinner.
Visually, Don’t Look Now is a pure treat. The viewer is catapulted to the cultural and wonderful world of watery Venice, where scene after scene feature gondola rides, exterior treats of the city, and filming locations such as the famous Hotel Gabrielli Sandworth and the San Nicolo dei Mendicoli church, wisely chosen as shooting locations giving the film an effective realism.
The characters of the elderly sisters, Heather and Wendy, are wonderfully cast. Hilary Mason and Clelia Matania are fantastic and believable as the mysterious duo. Seemingly kindly and eager to help, I was never really sure what the characters true motives were. Was Laura paying them for their assistance? The film never reveals this information, but Heather especially, contains a sinister look that shrouds her motivations in uncertainty. Fabulous actress Mason shines in her important role.
As John begins to “see things”, the use of the color red becomes very important. Christine died wearing a red coat and John sees a child wearing a red coat walking around the city, but cannot make out her face. When he then sees Laura and the sisters at a funeral, we begin to question his sanity. But are the sisters up to something and attempting to trick him or is his mind playing tricks on him? The terrific conclusion will only lead the viewer to more questions.
Don’t Look Now is a unique, classic horror film, with incredible thematic elements, an eerie psychological story, fine acting, and location sequences that will astound. Mixing the occult with an unpredictable climax, the film is influenced by Alfred Hitchcock, and succeeds in achieving a blood curdling affair sure to be discussed upon the chilling conclusion. The film is non-linear in storytelling, which only makes it more challenging to watch and appreciate.