Don’t Look Now – Amazon Prime Week

Don’t Look Now is currently available on Amazon Prime.

Don’t Look Now (1973) – Rated R

“On a trip to Venice, a young couple whose daughter has just died meet a psychic who leads them into a frightening and suspenseful experience. Based on a novel by Daphne Du Maurier.”

“The churches belong to God, but he doesn’t seem to care about them. Does he have other priorities?”

Turn off your iPad. Nicholas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now is a very complex movie with a lot going on (even if it appears to be slow-moving) and you need to pay attention. You cannot do justice to this film if you are doing something else at the same time. It is based on a Daphne Du Maurier short story from the book

There are innumerable films about love. There are almost as many about vengeance. Many horror films are designed to produce fear and some are actually about fear. Don’t Look Now is a rarity, a film about grief. The event that sets this in motion is brilliantly filmed – rapidly cutting between the child Christine playing at the pond and the parents in the house.

Don’t Look Now is a joint English-Italian production filmed, not surprisingly, in Italy and England. The majority of the film takes place in picturesque Venice. Roeg wisely avoids a cliched view of tourist Venice and opts for a more workmanlike view, including the decaying churches, dilapidated buildings, and rats. In spite of this, Venice looks wonderful and this perhaps the best use of the city in film, outside of the brief portion in A Little Romance.

Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie star as our grieving parents, John and Laura Baxter. As long as you can get past their distracting 70s hairstyles (Sutherland’s is a wig), the performances are quite good, very real. Sutherland reels in his out-sized personality to give one of his most natural performances.

Don’t Look Now was infamous for a sex scene involving Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie. In addition to the controversial nature of the cunnilingus (seriously all of two seconds), there have been persistent rumors that the sex was not simulated. Roeg brilliantly intercut the sex scene with a scene of the couple recovering from sex. This technique apparently helped the film get rated but visually it works wonderfully as well.

Peter Bart, a Paramount executive when Don’t Look Now was filmed, claimed in a recent book that he was on set and Sutherland and Christie really had sex. Sutherland released a statement stating that Bart was not on set and that the claims were false. Producer Peter Katz backed Sutherland’s version.

Marriages rarely survive the death of a child. It is not surprising that one parent would be ultra-rational and the other would be grasping at straws. Faith is tested. Alternatives may be sought. Heather and Wendy are sisters played by Hilary Mason and Clelia Matania. Heather is a psychic but blind. Laura becomes convinced that Heather can ‘see’ her dead child.

Don’t Look Now can be enjoyed as a treatise on grief, an exercise in recursive storytelling (past and future events bleed into the present), or even just as a travelogue on Venice. This is a film that influenced Alfonso Cuaron, Steven Soderbergh, Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, David Cronenberg, and Danny Boyle. Even Ryan Murphy admits he was influenced by it in making the show, American Horror Story.