Movie: Don’t Look Now (1973)
I think it is appropriate to segue from two weeks of scary things to a week of Venice by talking about a scary Venice movie. Don’t you?
My friend Ruth Pennebaker, the marvelous writer of The Fabulous Geezer Sisters suggested I watch this movie. When Don’t Look Now arrived from Netflix, I realized I had seen it once before, but still enjoyed it and it still surprised me.
It seemed dated only because it starred Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland, and they are such icons of 70’s movies. Am I right, Jane Boursaw?
The film starts in a book-filled country home with the intellectual couple sitting by the fire reading. Suddenly a spilled glass causes a streak of red to run across a slide that Sutherland is viewing, and he intuitively knows his daughter is in trouble. Running for the outdoor pond, he discovers the little girl, dressed in a red mackintosh face down in the pond. We skip a few years and his job consulting on restorations takes them to Venice, where events become curioser and curioser.
They meet a very strange pair of sisters–one blind, with second sight. We spend most of the movie puzzled by these two–innocents or devils? And is Sutherland mad or also blessed with some kind of extra sensory perception? Is that his daughter he is seeing? Her ghost?
Having wandered a bit in the walkways of Venice after dark, I can believe how easy it is to imagine that you are being followed, or that someone just disappeared around the corner in front of you. There is something about being in a city that seems to float on water that makes you begin to drift away from solid reality and tend to believe in apparitions. So many corners to make strange shadows. Broken reflections from water all around. To add to the confusion, as you will see in a book I review this week, Venetians do not say what they mean–it is a Mad Hatter world.
The film presents quite a contrast to another Venice movie I’m going to talk about later this week. That one is all light and romance. This one is all shadows and gloom. I particularly liked the way that color played a major role in Don’t Look Now.
Night scenes prevail, so the effect is almost of a black and white movie. Costumes are predominantly black and brown, with symbolic touches of red. The person? ghost? doppleganger? that appears to Sutherland is always in red against the gray and black of nighttime Venice.
As in the movie The Third Man which is set in Vienna, Don’t Look Now does not provide a translation of the native language for English-speakers. Italians speak Italian. So like the non-Italian-speaking Americans and English women characters in the movie, the audience is on edge not knowing what has been said. This non-understanding adds to the overall feeling of frustration and puzzlement. The mother and father (Christie and Sutherland) get lost in the streets of Venice in more than one sense.
The movie trailer below is longer than most, at 3 minutes and 18 sec. But it really demonstrates the darkness of this movie. I would say the movie is a must see for travelers to Venice. Despite it’s gloom and spookiness, it’s lush portrayal makes you think the movie could not possibly have happened anywhere else.
If you have visited Venice, did you find it rather eerie and other worldly at times? If you have seen this movie, did you foresee the ending? If so, you are far more prescient than I. The movie’s preview–longer than most–comes from You Tube. The other pictures here are my property. Please do not re-use without permission.
Movies that John Berendt mentions in The City of Falling Angels (which is next up in Venice week) as all being about people just “passing through” include:
Death in Venice
The Wings of the Dove
Don’t Look Now (reviewed here)
Summertime (stay tuned–review coming)
Across the River and Into the Trees
The Comfort of Strangers