Don't Look Now DVD

In D, DVD/Blu-ray by Alex Moss Editor

Nic Roeg’s unique style creates one of the most visceral and unsettling films of all time.

Nic Roeg’s unique style creates one of the most
visceral and unsettling films of all time.

The term auteur
is thrown around all too freely in cinema. The theory that a director can have
such creative control over their work that they are considered the film’s
author is something hard to identify and even harder to prove. However, there
are filmmakers out there whose style is so unmistakably recognisable, almost
instantly, within their work that this theory becomes more plausible. Nic Roeg is just such a director,
although he is likely to shy away from this as much as anyone. From the opening
frames of Don’t Look Now it is clear that this is a Roeg film.

When their
daughter is killed in a tragic accident John (Sutherland) and Laura (Christie)
Baxter travel to Venice to help them deal with the grief. While John throws
himself into his work, Laura befriends two elderly sisters and soon learns that
one of them is clairvoyant. While John is skeptical it is made clear that if
they stay in Venice their lives are in danger. Although Laura is anxious to
leave John maintains it is all hokum but the signs are growing increasingly
more ominous.

Based on a short
story by Daphne du Maurier Don’t
Look Now is that rare treat of a film that demands repeat viewing. Roeg’s
trademark use of montage is utlised to staggering effect, meaning that
throughout the relatively straightforward story we are gradually peppered with
images that hint and the bigger picture. The repetitive use of particular
visual motifs allow the story to echo from beginning to end in such a way as to
resonate into the psyche of John in particular. Although he may shy away from
his potentially psychic ways he, like us, cannot ignore the signs that all
point to his or his loved ones imminent demise.

The streets of
Venice, deathly quiet in the winter months, are oppressive in their narrow and
drab ways. Indeed the city itself plays a crucial role in Roeg’s ability to
create a sense of lost. The maze like alleys that John and Laura find
themselves in perfectly reflect the enclosed feeling of grief they are both
trying to hide. Thanks to Roeg’s visuals and an intelligent script by Allan Scott and Chris Bryant even du Marurier’s bizarre ending makes complete
sense. As if they have taken a concept by David
and rather than turn it into a waking nightmare create a sense of
real life terror.

It is through the
subdued colours of Venice that Roeg elicits much of the gently psychological
unrest. His stunning use of colours, in particular red, juxtaposes with the
grays and browns everywhere else. Add to this the recurrent themes of water,
breaking glass and reflections and throughout the film we are sent into a
spiral of clues that may unravel the sense of dread you feel throughout. The
film has the unique ability to act as an itch in the brain. You know the
answers, it’s right there in front of you, and yet they remain just out of

Despite all its
extravagance it is the relationship of the film that delicately draws you into
the world. Christie and Sutherland’s rapport is so brilliantly nuanced you
wonder if they had in fact been married for years before making the film. It’s
the little ticks and unspoken moments between them that sell it. Sutherland’s
ever-cocked eyebrows and disbelieving grin as his wife playfully tries to
convince him that the dead are trying to communicate with them. Or the sex
scene, at the time considered too graphic, that is both tender and passionate
without ever feeling gratuitous.

A film that
investigates themes of loss and grief while never losing site of its narrative
and characters. On the surface it may appear style over substance but on repeat
viewing it becomes clear this is substance through style. The term ‘they don’t
make them like they used to’ is never more appropriately used then here. If
Don’t Look Now were made now it would have endless twists and turns announced
with a fanfare of blood and overly exaggerated shocks. In Roeg’s hands it
becomes a psychological horror that affects the audience as much as it does the
characters on screen.

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