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United Kingdom 1973
Directed by
Nicolas Roeg
111 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Don't Look Now

Wintery, watery Venice is a perfect setting for this atmospheric adaptation of a Daphne Du Maurier short story about a young grieving couple (Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland) whose only daughter has drowned in a pond on their rural property. The pair go to Venice to mollify their grief. The husband, John, buries himself in his work restoring the frescoes of a crumbling church. Laura meanwhile meets a pair of English tourists, Heather (Hilary Mason) and her sister, Wendy (Clelia Matania). The former is blind and a medium and she tells Laura that she has seen her dead daughter and that she (the daughter) is happy. Laura believes her and although John initially thinks that it is all hocus-pocus he gradually becomes less sure of himself as he starts to see things which he cannot explain.

With films such as Walkabout (1971) and Performance (1970) Roeg, a former cinematographer, had established his signature interest in fractured mental states. Once again with an extensive use of visuals and help from his editor, Graeme Clifford, he does a marvellous job in representing the inner worlds of his grieving protagonists as they are forced to question what is real and what is not.

From the get-go, with an extended foreboding depiction of the tragic death of the daughter, Roeg takes us on their emotional journey, making use of recurring motifs particularly of water and its mirror-like reflections  to suggest a connectivity beyond the everyday and the supernatural. This is usually the stuff of tacky horror films but Roeg makes it work in the context of a serious “adult” drama, with Christie and Sutherland turning in fine performances.

Don't Look Now does not have the shock value of Kubrick's The Shining (1980) with which it shares some thematic resemblance but it is more impactful for all that. 




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