Cast: Donald Sutherland, Julie Christie
Synopsis: Following the accidental death of their little girl, a couple travel to Venice where Donald Sutherland is restoring a cathedral. All sorts of crazy spooky shit begins to happen and next thing we know we’re watching a blind old woman rubbing her boobs.
Calling Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now “a little strange” would be like calling Hannibal Lector “a little bit mischievous.” On the list of films that will make you tweet “WTF,” Don’t Look Now would rank somewhere near the top. For all its strangeness however, there is something visceral and powerful in the story. A married couple are trying to come to terms with the death of their young daughter who drowned in a large pond in the back garden. In a rather brilliant display of British upper-middle class sensibility, the couple then ship their other child off to a boarding school while they go on a jolly in Venice. Mysterious things begin to happen and the husband starts to see a figure in a red coat just like his daughter’s weave through the claustrophobic alleys and passages of Venice.
While not a particularly scary thriller, Don’t Look Now brings with it a chill of the macabre thanks largely to its setting. Although I’ve never been to Venice, I’m told it’s quite an unusual place to visit: beautiful and ornate yet haunting and disorientating. It was the perfect place to set this film in which a couple struggles to fight their way out of their grief. In a lot of ways, the city is a third character, and quite an antagonistic one at that. It amplifies and exaggerates the sense of loss the main characters feel. It was an interesting experience to have such a beautiful and fascinating city slowly fill me with a sense of dread. While watching this film I thought to myself: “Wouldn’t it be nice to go get lost in Venice?” But then I remembered that a character in that awful Paris Hilton film The Hottie and the Nottie said something similar so I had to think that one through for a moment and then the thing with the [SPOILER ALERT] midget-troll happened which officially killed my Venice fantasy.
The midget-troll, in a lot of ways, sums up my disappointment with this movie. The actors put in terrific performances and the director and technical staff do a wonderful job of building up tension and dread, but it felt that all of it unraveled thanks to something so random and confusing. The thing that’s frustrating is that there was probably a reason for including the midget-troll but I can’t quite figure out what it is. Similarly, there were other points in the movie that I did not fully understand or made me do a double take (the boob rubbing for instance). It annoys me that this is a movie I can’t quite crack but I guess I shouldn’t be too disappointed because it gives me an excuse to return to it in the future. Maybe if I come back to it when I have kids of my own the film will have a different effect on me.
- A vivid and captivating sense of place permeates the movie.
- Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie really give the film its power. Convincing and likeable, the actors fit their roles beautifully.
- The editing of the sex scene is brilliant; the decision to splice the scene with shots of the couple getting ready for dinner (post-coitus) was a fantastic. It drains the scene of eroticism but replaces it with something real and touching. It was like watching the couple’s relationship heal.
- I got a bit distracted in the middle of the film because I thought about the old woman who “fixed” that painting of Jesus in Spain. The cathedral restoration in the film would have been a lot cheaper if the cathedral hired her instead of Donald Sutherland. It provided some humour in an otherwise somber film. In case you have no clue what I’m talking about, look at this: http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/online/2012/8/22/1345647849262/Ecce-Homo-by-Elias-Garcia-006.jpg
- Everyone says “Quuiiii” a lot and that got kind of annoying.
- The WTF ending.
It frustrates me that I didn’t quite understand this movie. I think to fully feel Don’t Look Now’s power, the viewer needs to have kids of their own so that the characters’ grief becomes sharper and more poignant. That’s just a theory of mine anyway. When I have my own kids I will give this another go. I expect to be able to upgrade this film from “good” to “great” at that time.