Written by Daphne du Marier, Allan Scott, and Chris Bryant
Directed by Nicolas Roeg
What happens to a family when tragedy strikes? Before Donald Sutherland would explore this topic with Mary Tyler Moore in Ordinary People, he explored it with Julie Christie in Don’t Look Now. Based on a story by Daphne du Marier, it has something of a different take on a family experiencing tragedy.
Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie are John and Laura Baxter. The film opens with the horrible drowning death of their daughter in a pond at the home where they are residing.
John’s work takes them to Venice as the two try to cope. One day in a restaurant, Laura has an encounter with a blind woman who professes to be a psychic. The woman tells Laura that her daughter is happy and laughing and there’s no need to be sad. Laura believes them, but John dismisses what she tells him. That is, until he begins thinking he’s catching glimpses of his daughter in the same red dress she drowned in as he walks the streets of Venice. A series of murders has been happening in Venice, which makes the warning the psychic gives Laura about John all the more frightening.
The film is beautifully shot. Credit must be given to Director Nicolas Roeg who shot it in a different way and gives the viewer fantastic imagery without being overt and obvious in what he’s trying to convey. Water seems to be a theme throughout the film. The child drowns, they move to Venice, a vision the blind lady has includes rain, etc. There are also different views of the Gothic cathedrals John works in that give it an aura of spookiness without resorting to the usual stunts to chill the audience.
The movie is hard to classify, especially watching it without having more than the DVD blurb to go on for what the plot might be. It seems to be headed in a supernatural direction, yet I felt afterward it had more to do with what happened between John and Laura following the child’s death with the same tones of Ordinary People. At the same time, there’s the mystery of the murders in Venice as the backdrop. It’s not an easy movie to say you’ll like it if you like a certain type of film.
The opening scene where Sutherland discovers his daughter in the pond is some of the best I’ve seen from him. Although he’s got the distraction of the 1970s perm going here, his performance is top-notch. I was also impressed with Christie. The two are believable as a couple whose life is fractured after the death of their child and who need to regain a sense of intimacy but fight it due to their grief. At the same time, Christie does an amazing job with her scenes with the psychic. It’s enough that I wasn’t sure if she was being taken in by them due to her agony over her grief or if what was happening was genuine.
There’s a very explicit love scene in Don’t Look Now that’s garnered more than a few rumors, largely because Sutherland and Christie were lovers off-screen as well during this time. It’s a good love scene that conveys the couple’s attempt to return to the intimacy they once shared, but it might make a few people uncomfortable and be enough to turn some off of what is a very good film.
I found it interesting that Sutherland chose two roles where he was the father of a child who died, even as those two films were quite a bit different. Don’t Look Now is a film to pay attention to as the story unwinds, so make sure if you check it out you have the ability to give it your complete attention to appreciate the imagery and some of the hints that are contained in it.
Categories: Movie Reviews