Don’t Look Now
Directed by Nicolas Roeg
Starring Donald Sutherland, Julie Christie, Hilary Mason
Review by Jordan
I’ve often argued that when it comes to art, grief is the most powerful emotion to convey. Love, hate, hope and regret will all strike a chord with any audience, but grief and devastation are feelings which reverberate the longest, and one need look no further than Nicolas Roeg’s impactful, thematic masterpiece Don’t Look Now for proof of this.
Based on a story by Daphne Du Maurier, Don’t Look Now introduces us to John and Laura Baxter (Sutherland and Christie) who travel to the labyrinthine city of Venice, where John is tasked with restoring an iconic Cathedral, after the tragic drowning death of their young daughter. The love the two share is beginning to reach its height once more, and they are making strides in coping with their loss, when a run in with a psychic and her obscure sister threatens to send their lives spiralling into unwanted territory once more. Laura befriends the sisters, who claim to be communicating with her apparently happy and smiling daughter, but John doesn’t believe, and it is apparent that either his stubbornness, or her vulnerability, will have tragic consequences.
The plot of Don’t Look Now is deceptively intricate, but in itself is not the most important aspect of the film. As a viewer what we are made to focus on is the philosophy of time, and how an event of devastating significance can at first create a splash, and then a ripple which extends into the future. Are we seeing the ghosts of past disasters, or the physical horrors of the present? And how are these separated? Being lost in time is made far more treacherous when lost in a strange city also. John and Laura traverse the canals and brick streets, separated from their son who remains in a boarding school and becoming separate from each other as they take hold of their differing methods for coping with their newly renewed grief, disguised as acceptance.
Nicolas Roeg is one of the great underappreciated directors of all time. As well as Don’t Look Now he has helmed the Mick Jagger cult curio Performance (1970), Walkabout (1971), The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) and the fantastically creepy The Witches (1990), so it really is a compliment to suggest that this is his defining moment. Often billed as a horror movie, Don’t Look Now really defies categorization, and should be referred to simply as ‘essential.’
5 cathedral mosaics out of 5