Tuesday, October 22, 2013


I envy anyone who's yet to watch Don't Look Now.  Even as a film that's only gained acclaim over the years since its 1973 release, it's still an under-the-radar classic waiting to be discovered by many of the most voracious film fans, despite recently being declared the best British film of all time by Time Out London.  Directed by the great Nicholas Roeg, whose 1971 film Walkabout is in my personal top ten, Don't Look Now tells the story of Laura and John Baxter (winningly portrayed by Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland), a couple still processing the drowning death of their daughter, Christine (Sharon Williams).

Based on a short story by Daphne Du Maurier, whose other works had previously been adapted by Alfred Hitchcock for Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, and The Birds, Roeg's treatment of the supernatural, manifested as psychic visions experienced by John and the questionable predictions of a clairvoyant blind woman (Hilary Mason), is a brilliant ploy to distract from the film's central theme; at its core, Don't Look Now is about primal, insurmountable grief from which there is no chance of recovery.

From the magnificently brutal opening where we witness Christine's drowning to the wicked irony of the film's denouement, the whole of the film is spent observing how tragedy has altered John, Laura, and their connection to each other.  Roeg's patented intercutting of time and space constructs a present where, though physically in Venice, John's emotional and mental states are frozen in the moment when his daughter perished back in England.  But even the current timeline offers no respite, as John begins seeing what could be visions of his daughter and wife against the waterlogged vistas of this iconic Italian backdrop. 

Don't Look Now is a challenging and ambitious vision of what horror films can achieve if the locus of terror is placed internally within the characters.  Nothing against films where the threat comes from without, but Roeg's map of the unspeakable is more finely illustrated than those of even the most prolific and revered craftsmen (and women) of the genre.  If you've never seen Don't Look Now, it's time.  Everyone else, why not give it another go?  It's a damn fine film, more than worthy of another look.

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